Category: peaches

Sweet Preservation: mint julep preserved peaches!

Mint julep peaches!

This is my second year being a Canbassador & participating in the “Sweet Preservation” canning event, using stone fruits provided by the Washington State Stone Fruit Commission. On their Sweet Preservation website, they provide recipes, labels & even a Preservation 101 page to get people canning. Last year I received some amazingly beautiful Sweet Dream peaches & Honey Royale nectarines from them, and I made vanilla brandied peach jam, peach & pepper salsa, and nectarine basil preserves as well as made a beautiful crostata from the leftover peaches (& I even froze some). And this year, it’s peaches once again! This time, it was gorgeous Sierra Rich peaches.

No kidding- these were 22 lbs. of the most beautiful fresh peaches you’ll ever see.

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Down south style bourbon peach tea.

Bourbon peach sweet tea!

Truth be told, I’ve never really been a bourbon girl. When I was younger, the only liquor I drank was mixed in drinks like a “Madras” or “Long Island Iced Tea” or a plain ol’ rum & coke or something. I never acquired a taste for Jack Daniels, unlike my female college peers (or so they said- liars). And then later on as I got older (& realized some things do not mix well) I just stopped altogether with any kind of so-called hard liquor, and stuck to either beer or wine. Except for Jameson of course, which is a staple around here. Irish coffees!

But Jay is a bourbon guy and so I’ve come to find that there are a few that I quite enjoy with ice or in a drink, and some of those I even like straight up. There’s always a lot to choose from here (as of the time this post is being written there are no fewer than 24 bottles of bourbon/whiskey/etc on hand), so there’s enough to taste & sample & find out what I find to be good (Russell’s, James E. Pepper, and good old Maker’s Mark) & what equates to gasoline (Old Weller Antique).

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Garden’s last hurrah: nectarine basil preserves (+ a salsa).

It’s September, and the weather is changing. My little herb garden is still growing, but it’s struggling. I know it’s short-lived: the temperatures are dipping down into the 50′s at night, and they’re starting to show the signs that it’s too cold for them. So I’m using every last bit that I can. Making sauces & throwing in extra basil, making cilantro rice, and making rosemary-herbed chicken. Because before I know it, I’ll be drying them all for use over the winter.

When I was a kid, this time of year used to depress me. Back at school for weeks already, time in the pool getting cut drastically short (or disappearing altogether), the weather changing, etc. As an adult I find it doesn’t anymore… sure, I miss the summer. But after long, swelteringly hot days where my face feels like it’s melting off, I look forward to the coolness of the fall. The quietness. The changing leaves. The awesome fall TV lineup. The ability to bake a cake & not have it be too hot to breathe or have the frosting form nothing but a sad, pathetic puddle of sugary mush.

I definitely always miss my garden once the fall weather moves in. Using dried herbs just isn’t the same. And I miss all the fresh produce, too.

But right now… it’s still just warm enough, and it’s all still fresh.

Beautiful, fresh Washington State nectarines.I mean, come on… really now… they’re insanely beautiful!

I made the following recipes after receiving a second massive box from the Washington State Stone Fruit Commission. You might remember that the last time it was a huge box of beautiful peaches. This time, it was half ‘Sweet Dream’ peaches, half ‘Honey Royale’ nectarines (shown above); grown in an orchard right outside Yakima, Washington. They were so stunningly picture perfect, I couldn’t help but snap some photos before they were gobbled up. The nectarines were so big & perfect they almost looked like apples! Just gorgeous. I swear, I have never seen such beautiful fruit before. Not even at farmer’s markets, or gourmet food stores. The fruits I’ve received from them have been some of the best produce I’ve ever had.

So of course, after I took photos… a few of them got eaten fresh. And my parents took some. Gave a few to lucky neighbors.

And the piles of fruit that were left were all for me to play around with!

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Peach bourbon black walnut crostata.

Peach bourbon black walnut crostata; the lazy woman's dessert.

Also known as: “The Lazy Woman’s Dessert.” No, but seriously. It’s an amazingly easy thing to make. It’s a pie without being a pie. A pie without the fancy fuss of a pie. A tart without being too perfect. You don’t even have to make a pie crust look pretty for this.

Also… literally, I had no clever puns for the title of this post. But this crostata doesn’t really need one, it speaks for itself. Fresh, juicy peaches, chopped black walnuts, a little Blanton’s bourbon with sugar & a rough-edged pie crust come together to make a heavenly dessert.

As a matter of fact… I don’t even have a recipe, really.

Peach bourbon black walnut crostata.

There was no way I was going to post this at all, actually. I made it because I received another large box of peaches & nectarines right after canning up all the rest of those gorgeous Washington State peaches. So I figured before I got into more canning, I’d bake something up. I threw it together in no time at all, totally winging it. Listen- I follow recipes for things all the time. I put up jar after jar of jams, fruit & pickles & I follow cake recipes; 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon this, 1 cup that. Sometimes I like to just go wild & crazy & throw some things together to see if it’ll work out. And it just so happens it usually does, and this time it was pretty enough visually. Anyway, I took some photos (because I take photos of everything I make- true story), and posted a little picture on Facebook & Instagram.

All of a sudden… I had a ton of requests for the recipe. Really?

Okay. Except there isn’t one.

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Millions of peaches, peaches for me.

A big ol' box of Washington State peaches!

Please tell me I’m not the only one who thinks of that Presidents of the United States of America song when I see peaches… please… someone… anyone? I sing it to myself in the supermarket. At the farmer’s market. Anywhere I see peaches. And I distinctly remember the video; specifically seeing it on MTV at my aunt & uncle’s house when I was in 9th grade. I believe that was when Jenny McCarthy was the host of Singled Out, not to mention when the show was actually popular.

Damn I’m old.

I don’t mind being “old”, though. Not really. I mean, let’s face it… 32 isn’t really old. I’m being facetious here. But either way, old people are my favorite kinds of people, so I don’t care about “getting old.” I’d rather spend my time knitting, baking & listening to Wingy Manone or Dean Martin with the Golden Girls than hanging out with a bunch of gum-snapping Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift fans ANY DAY.

Beautiful fresh peaches.. turned into a vanilla brandied peach jam!A quick wash & dry does a lot to make them even more beautiful…

 

And let’s face it: some of my favorite pastimes used to be considered old fashioned. It used to be (and not that long ago) that baking pies or making jam were outdated concepts. That “home-y” domestic stuff was something that was relegated to history books or old WWII propaganda posters. It was old fashioned. It was for old ladies. It wasn’t cool for a while there to have anything to do with the kitchen. It was the in thing to act as if you couldn’t even boil water or stored sweaters in your stove. Blame Carrie Bradshaw, blame whoever you want, but it was a fact. Women who stayed home & liked to be domestic were once frowned upon, looked at as boring or even worse, dubbed “ambition-less.” That sucks. I’m just glad things have changed. I’m glad there are people like Erica from P.S. I Made This who show that you can be quirky, crafty & love to cook but also be cool, & have a wicked sense of fashion. Not to mention that a career can be made from it! Whoda thunk it. Move over, Martha, there’s more of us.

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Fruit stoned.

I might be a summer baby, born on the 30th of July, but I’m not a lover of 95˚ F degree temperatures with dew points that make it feel like it’s 104˚ F. Basically all I want to do once the mercury goes up is… well… nothing. Seriously. I just want to sit and lounge in a cool, comfortable spot, drink frozen adult beverages and get fanned with palm fronds (preferably with Henry Cavill, Alexander Skårsgard and Brad Pitt doing the fanning) and I’d look something like this…

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You know, impossibly fresh-looking and relaxed, all my makeup in place, with not a drop of sweat to be found. But that isn’t always practical, as you probably well know. That’s a total dream sequence. I still have to work, and do gardening, and cleaning, and eating, and living. And you do too!

And since you’ve still gotta eat, no matter how hot it is, you probably still want dessert too. I know dessert is a must around here. Crazy enough, when you’re known for your baking and you have a blog where you showcase your baked goods, people actually expect dessert all the time! In the summer, especially these hazy/hot/humid “dog days” of summer, the best kind of desserts to make are the easy ones. Ones that don’t take a lot of time, ones that are made from fresh or in-season ingredients, ones that basically make themselves and ones that you can eat with a dollop of ice cream or fresh whipped cream. But more importantly: ones that still look beautiful (despite the ungodly heat) & make everyone think you slaved for hours.

And a galette is one of those.

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And right about now you may be wondering what the hell a galette is exactly. Well, I’m going to satisfy your curiosity…

Galette is a term used in the French cuisine to designate various types of flat, round or freeform crusty cakes,[1] similar in concept to a Chinese bing. One notable type is the galette des Rois (King cake) eaten on the day of Epiphany. In French Canada, the term galette is usually applied to pastries best described as large cookies.

Galette, or more properly Breton galette (French: Galette bretonne, Breton: Krampouezhenn gwinizh du), is also the name given in most French crêperies to savoury buckwheat flour pancakes, while those made from wheat flour, much smaller in size and mostly served with a sweet filling, are branded crêpes. Galette is a type of thin large pancake mostly associated with the regions of Normandy and Brittany, where it replaced at times bread as basic food, but it is eaten countrywide. Buckwheat was introduced as a crop suitable to impoverished soils and buckwheat pancakes were known in other regions where this crop was cultivated, such as Limousin or Auvergne.

It is frequently garnished with egg, meat, fish, cheese, cut vegetables, apple slices, berries, or similar ingredients. One of the most popular varieties is a galette covered with grated Emmental cheese, a slice of ham and an egg, cooked on the galette.[2] In France, this is known as a galette complète (a complete galette). A hot sausage wrapped in a galette (called galette saucisse, a tradition of Rennes, France) and eaten like a hot dog is becoming increasingly popular as well.[3]

There is a children’s song about galette: “J’aime la galette, savez-vous comment ? Quand elle est bien faite, avec du beurre dedans.” (“I like galette, do you know how? When it is made well, with butter inside.”)

-Wikipedia

My galettes aren’t exactly like the traditional galettes, they’re just puff pastry topped with stone-fruits: sliced plums, peaches & nectarines. But they’re pretty, and they’re pretty easy to make. Okay they’re more than pretty. They’re downright gorgeous. Like jewels laid out on pillows… (was that too cheesy? It sounds very cheesy in my head…)


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Okay, scratch that cheesy crap. This is some hardcore punk rock pastry! Better? No? Alright forget it.

Anyway, all I did was unroll one sheet of frozen puff pasty dough, and cut it into 6 pieces. I placed them evenly on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Then I melted some marmalade (I used this one, and heated it just enough so it was more liquidy & easily brushed on) and brushed it onto each piece. I pitted & sliced up some plums, a large peach, and some nectarines and placed them on top of the melted marmalade. I made a different galette for each, but you could make ones that consist of a variety of sliced stone-fruits. I sprinkled them with a little granulated sugar and baked them in a 375° F oven for 40-50 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown.

You’re done!

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Remove them from the oven, let them cool for 5-10 minutes on the baking sheet, then remove to a rack unless they’re going to be eaten right then & there. If you leave them on the sheets, they’ll get soggy. Serve them plain, or like I said above: with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and/or fresh whipped cream.

So yes, it requires that you actually put the oven on. And you have to melt the marmalade a little. But really, that’s a small price to pay for a dessert that looks like this. I guarantee you, if you serve these, someone will ask you what bakery you bought them from. Apricot jam works well too, if you don’t have marmalade. And any kind of stone-fruit works; plums, nectarines, peaches, pluots, apricots… whatever! A sprinkling of sliced almonds along with the sugar on top before baking would be a great addition. You could also spread some frangipane on the puff pastry instead of marmalade. And in the fall, the peaches & plums can be replaced with pears and apples, too, maybe with a sprinkling of cinnamon as well as sugar.Hell, I don’t see why you couldn’t use sliced strawberries either.

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Of course you can totally make your own puff pastry dough, too. I opted for frozen because this was a last-minute decision based on some peaches & nectarines that were getting too soft and needed to be used (and a kind of over-abundance of plums). It’s good to have some frozen puff pastry in your fridge, along with some crescent rolls and biscuits. They can be used at the drop of a hat to make an excellent breakfast or dessert.

That’s truthfully how I come up with most of my ideas; when I have fruit or something that needs to be used ASAP, and some kind of frozen pastry or crust, etc. I see what I have, what fresh materials are around, and I work around them. I rarely say, “Hey, this week I’m gonna make a stone-fruit galette so I better stock up on peaches & shit.” Nope. If I have strawberries that need to be used, I incorporate them into something. If I buy cherries because they’re on sale, I figure out what I’m going to make after I have them. That’s how it ought to be- you decide what you’re going to eat based on what’s available, what’s fresh, what’s in season. Eh. I’m not going to preach… I had both a big ass burger from Five Guys & a pizza with garlic knots in the past week.

That said, I’m already imagining this done with a thick layer of peanut butter-chocolate ganache and marshmallows on top. The fun ain’t just for fruit! And marshmallows are always in season.

Earl Grey’s nectarine tea preserves.

Lately, well for the last 3 weeks or so, I’ve been canning & jarring everything in sight. I even tried to jar up Jay & Indy but they resisted. I’m kidding, ASPCA. But it just so happens today is Ball® National Can-It-Forward Day, so I’m right in style. And you should be too…

I happened upon an interesting recipe in the August 2011 issue of Bon Appétit. There was an article all about canning & preserving, and there was a recipe called ‘Lord Grey’s Peach Preserves.’ It immediately caught my eye as it was preserves steeped with tea. Earl Grey tea, to be specific. Earl Grey tea is a delicious tea, traditionally black, with a flavor and aroma that comes from oil of bergamot, extracted from the bergamot orange, a citrus fruit which is quite fragrant and looks more like a lemon/lime than an orange.

Painting attributed to Thomas Phillips, circa 1820

Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, KG, PC (13 March 1764 – 17 July 1845), known as Viscount Howick between 1806 and 1807, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 22 November 1830 to 16 July 1834. A member of the Whig Party, he backed significant reform of the British government and was among the primary architects of the Reform Act 1832. In addition to his political achievements, Earl Grey famously gives his name to an aromatic blend of tea.[1]

- Wikipedia

I love tea. It’s a trait that’s inherited from my grandmother’s side- those crazy Irish & their tea! I miss her so much. And I even miss her tea obsession. She drank it in a big coffee cup I bought her from Anthropologie that had a big A on it. She drank her tea morning, noon & night. We made her stop drinking it after a certain hour (or tried to) because we were afraid the caffeine wasn’t good for her. But she insisted, and she continued drinking tons & tons of tea. I swear, she would’ve dove headfirst into the harbor if she had been around for the Boston Tea Party! My aunt loves tea too (I bet you could have already guessed that I gave a jar of this to her). My mother is more of a coffee person, but even so she loves her tea. I love coffee too, but I love all kinds of tea, & I go nuts in Teavana. It just so happens, though, that I’m a big fan of Earl Grey tea. I have a really good one that I love, it’s by Stash teas. It’s not expensive but it’s excellent quality. So I decided right then & there, as soon as I read the article, that I’d make this recipe. I didn’t have a lot of peaches, but I had a lot of nectarines, so I decided to just use them instead. Because of that, I’m just going to go with calling this version ‘Earl Grey’s Nectarine Tea Preserves.’

Nana reading something very important, 1937, Crugers Park, NY

It sucks hardcore my Nana isn’t here to try this. She’d go crazy over it, as she did everything I made. But preserves made with TEA!? Oh please. She’d be so excited. Last year for her 92nd birthday I made her Earl Grey tea with lemon frosted cupcakes, and she thought those were the best things ever. She loved to look at all the jars of stuff I made, and say “I don’t know whether to stare at them or eat them.” I hate that she’s gone. Yes, she was 93 years old. Yes, she had a good, long life. But there’s never, EVER a good age to lose someone… and you’re NEVER prepared for it, especially when they’re in excellent health & it’s unexpected. I miss her terribly, especially when I think of anything that has to do with tea. *insert long, wistful sigh here* I’m sorry if anyone is tired of hearing about this. But this blog is slowly morphing into a “more than just baking/cooking blog”, I chronicle my life here in a way, and this is how I’m feeling. So like it or lump it. Writing about it helps & I’ve never been one to shy away from writing about anything just because someone may not like it.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that for almost 3 weeks, this has been ALL that I had been doing- mourning, jarring, mourning, canning, crying, jarring and canning some more. It was so goddamn hot out I couldn’t bake… doing this was my only saving grace. Although I suppose there’s worse things I could be doing with my grief than making pickles & Earl Grey jams. And I am starting to see the light at the end of the grief tunnel. For sure. There are some rough patches but I can feel my heart getting a bit lighter, & I find myself smiling at her memory more than crying. This is a good thing.


And so are these preserves. The smell of it cooking was amazing. Between the tea scent & the nectarine scent, it was heavenly. And comforting. The tea makes the preserves have a darker, sort of caramelized look, which is so pretty. If you aren’t a fan of the tea leaves in the actual jam itself, just skip that step. Your tea flavor might not be as intense, but it should still have an aroma and taste of Earl Grey. Another option is to make canned sliced peaches or nectarines in an Earl Grey-infused syrup. Lady Grey tea would also work very well in this.

And yes, you could use a lemon-y herbal tea as well, I’m sure, for those of you who are anti-caffeine or can’t tolerate it.


EARL GREY’S NECTARINE TEA PRESERVES (adapted from Bon Appétit, August 2011)

Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs. ripe nectarines
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 5 Earl Grey teabags, divided
  • powdered pectin (optional, see note below*)

Directions:

  1. Cut a small, shallow X in the bottom of each nectarine. Working in batches, blanch them in a large pot of boiling water until skin loosens, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl of ice water; let cool. Peel, halve & pit. Cut into ⅓” slices. Combine with sugar & juice in large bowl and let stand for 30 minutes.
  2. Place a small appetizer or dessert plate in the freezer. Transfer fruit mixture & 4 tea bags to a large heavy pot. Open the remaining tea bag; crumble leaves slightly, add to pot. Bring to a boil, stirring gently, and cook 15-20 minutes.
  3. Test doneness by scooping a small spoonful onto frozen plate and tilting it. Mixture is ready if it does not run.
  4. Remove teabags. Skim foam from surface of jam. Ladle into sterilized, HOT jars. Wipe rims, seal and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath (remember- start timing when the water is at a rolling boil).

This recipe makes roughly 2 pints. I made four 8 oz. (half-pint) jars instead of two 16 oz. (pint) because I think the smaller ones are better for preserves, jellies & jams. I find that people you give them to always open the large jars, eat from them (maybe even a few times), then put them in the fridge & they get shoved to the back & forgotten, like most jams or jellies people buy. Did you ever notice how long most people have jars of jelly? It’s kinda crazy. Anyway, this way, if that happens, you aren’t wasting the majority of your hard work. My fourth jar was a little skimpier than the rest, so I guess I didn’t quite have 5 lb. or my nectarines were on the smaller side. About 3-4 medium sized peaches/nectarines equal a pound.

As preserves & jams go, this is relatively easy. *You might not need to add pectin to this. But if it’s not coming together, to avoid losing it all, I’d toss a bit in there and see if it helps. Also remember, as it cools it firms up more, and once it’s chilled it’ll be firmer still. So don’t go too crazy with the pectin. You don’t want nectarine cement. It just so happens nectarines are a low-pectin fruit, and mine needed a little boost. So I added a little pectin to give it a kick in the ass. But preserves have a slightly looser consistency than jam or jelly does, it’s more like a marmalade. Also, the word “ripe” is key here. Use ripe fruits only, and cut off any bruises or dark spots. Unripened fruits aren’t soft enough for making this, you’ll be standing there forever stirring it, hoping for the best, and end up with chunks of fruit in a sugar syrup. One or two of my nectarines weren’t ripe, and they didn’t cook down, but they left themselves in lovely, random little chunks throughout. This has started me on a tea-infused tirade. Raspberry Six-Summits Oolong jam? Perhaps. Kiwi jam with Frutto Bianco white tea? Maybe.

The number one question people ask me about canning is, “Why bother? Why not just go buy some at the store? Surely it’s cheaper & easier?” or “Why waste your time with this, aren’t pickles cheap enough?” And my answer is, “You’re an idiot.” No, I’m just kidding, it’s really not. My answer is usually a long diatribe about self-sufficiency, about the D.I.Y. movement I so believe in, about how I find that mentality of ‘why make it when I can buy it’ to be so sickening and also to be a large contributor to the downfall of society. But the short answer is really easy: like baking- it keeps me sane, it’s fun, and it’s useful. I mean, where can you buy nectarine preserves with Earl Grey tea? I know I’ve never seen them. It’s like baking for me- why buy a shitty bland-tasting sheet cake when I can make my own from scratch using Bourbon vanilla? Why buy soggy, over-moist supermarket bakery cupcakes with too-sweet frosting when I can make my own, that taste way better, from scratch and personalize them with things like crumbled bacon on top? Same thing with canning. I’ve been an artist & craftswoman my whole life- I do a lot of things myself. From cutting my own hair, to dying it, to piercing my own ears, to making my own pickles and growing my own vegetables. From painting garage doors myself and repurposing old tables to painting & replacing the knobs on an old chest to freshen it up and turning an old cashmere sweater that shrunk into a winter throw-pillow cover & a hot water bottle case. From making my own lemon olive oil body scrub to rolling out my own pasta & making my own ice cream. It’s a certain kind of ethic I learned from my mother. I’ll never stop doing that stuff, ever, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. D.I.Y. forever!

People also have this crazy idea that making this stuff from scratch is hard or really complicated. I swear it isn’t, really. I promise you. Anyone with a basic knowledge of chemistry/pH balances & acidity/the degree food has to be heated to kill bacteria/Harvard degree can do this. Haha. Joking. Anyone with a canning kit who can read directions can do this. And should. Ignore the people who make it seem like you need to have attended Oxford University to figure out how to seal a jar.

You’re either a leader or a follower, and I choose to be a leader. If you don’t get why I make my own jam, then maybe you’re the one missing out. And if you don’t understand my grief, then you’re also missing out. Grief means you loved someone so much, you can’t believe they’re no longer here & your heart hurts when it hits you. If you don’t feel that way about anyone… then you haven’t loved. Or lived. So as I find my way into a “new normal”, I at least know that I have feelings (which is more than I can say for a lot of people I know) & that I knew what it was to truly love. And in this day & age, I’m not sure a whole lot of people really know what that means.