I am loathe to admit it but so much of the fruit went to waste last year. My mom helped me with some of the cherries, and I tried to freeze some of the mulberries, but the peaches were a complete waste. I resolved this spring that the peaches would not go to waste. And it is more than safe to say that I have kept that resolution
A couple Saturdays ago my best friend Katie helped me make some delicious peach jelly. We took the bucket full of peaches that I had gathered and cut them into quarters, leaving the skins and pits in tact. After adding water we boiled them on the stove until juice began to form and the fruit got, for lack of a better word, mushy. I then strained the fruit to get beautiful coral juice. The next day we took the peach juice and turned it into jelly. I used this recipe taken from cooks.com
Frankly I have no idea what the "2 drops slide together to make a big drop" part means but we used our best judgment and it set up just fine. Even if it did boil over all over my glass top stove...and when I turned on the vent fan to clear the smoke cookbooks started falling on our heads. No one said we had to be graceful and Martha Stewart about it, its much more fun to be Lucy and Ethel. We ended up with 4 medium sized jars and 3 small jars (no idea how much any of the jars actually holds).To make juice, cook peelings, seeds and peaches in water. Strain to make 3 1/2 cups peach juice. Pour into a large saucepan and add 1 box Sure-Jel. Bring to a hard boil and pour in 4 1/2 cups sugar. Boil about 2 minutes or until 2 drops slide together to make a big drop. Pour into sterilized jars and seal.
This week I took all that yummy 'mushy' fruit and turned it into peach butter. The recipe I used can be found in its entirety (step by step directions) here, but I'll boil it down for you. Did you like that, boil it down? I'm hilarious.
The recipe calls for 6 quarts of peaches. I didn't measure, I figure when it's not baking, it's not an exact science. My medium sized crockpot was full and that looked like the picture, so close enough. I used a little less than two tablespoons of cinnamon (my recommendation would be to use less than that, it seemed a little heavy on the cinnamon when I tasted it), a teaspoon of allspice (the recipe calls for half teaspoon but I love allspice and always use a little bit more no matter what I'm making). The recipe also calls for cloves but I didn't have any so I used a little bit of nutmeg instead. A little nutmeg goes along way so if you use that, start small, you can always add more.
I left it my crockpot over night, about 10 or 11 hours and it reduced but not enough. If you're able to stay at home, just turn up the heat or leave it in for several more hours. If you have to go to work, like me, then throw it in the fridge until you get back and can speed up the process. I used my mixer to blend it and soften up some of the larger pieces of fruit and peels that were resisting becoming butter. Then I put it in my large soup pot, put my splatter guard on the top to let steam escape and turned the heat on medium. Once it started bubbling I turned it back to the lowest setting. It only took about 30-45 minutes to finish reducing. I let it cool for about 35 minutes before putting it in freezer safe containers. (I really detest using jars, freezing is so much simpler). I let it cool on the counter for a couple more hours then had Curtis help me carry it out to the freezer in the garage. I ended up with 4 pint containers, and 4 smaller containers (not sure how big).
I still have about six or seven cups of juice left so I intend to get some sugar-free pectin to make some jelly for my diabetic grandmother (uses splenda instead of sugar), and another batch of regular. I had hoped to make some peach honey but it looks a little advanced for me. Something about sugar and juice in equal parts and some other stuff that looked like math. I need to keep it simple and build into the word problems in the kitchen.
At any rate, peaches are pretty cheap now in the grocery store. Meijer had them for $.69/lb the other day, and you may still be able to get some at an orchard depending where you live. I hope I inspired you to try preserving some delicious fruit this year! Pickyourown.com is a wonderful site with directions for preserving just about anything in a million different ways. You'd be amazed what you can do with a pile of fruit and determination. Believe me, if I can do it...anybody can. Even Lucy and Ethel.