Over the weekend, I hopped in my car and drove for a couple hours, out to West Virginia. A dear friend bought a beautiful house in Martinsburg, and offered up the guest room. We ate kitchen-sink cookies from the still-frozen dough I brought along, and toured the house while sipping Single Malt from tumblers.
It was a lovely time.
Next morning, after a diner-style breakfast at Blue White Restaurant, we popped into a few shops, bought some hand-blown highball glasses made at a glass blowers that unfortunately closed in 2004, adding to my collection of glasses they don’t make anymore, stopped at a shop for some beads and then made a little trip out to Orr’s farm for some produce to take home. I bought some Ramp Mustard, which sounds like it would be wonderful on chicken or turkey sandwiches, or maybe spread over a nice piece of fish before cooking. But then I rounded the corner, after watching a dervish (a tiny tornado) snatch a sun parasol out of a hot dog vendors holder and send it sailing at a woman getting into her truck, and saw the peaches.
They were gorgeous.
They had three varieties to sample. The Fiery Fury was the most complex and the most ‘peachy’ of the three so I bought half a bushel, headed back to my friend’s house and loaded my finds from his car into mine for the drive back and said my farewells.
So, its just me. What in the hell am I going to do with a bushel of peaches?
Well, there’s peach jam and preserves. I’ll do that tomorrow. Canning (did that today). and freezing -also tomorrow.
I peeled and pitted about 20 peaches, about a third of the bushel, and set a pyrex dish half filled with water holding 8 jars. I filled them with water and put them in a 375 oven for an hour. My grandmom does her canning that way. It kind of acts as an autoclave and brings the temperature of water in the jars up to about 160 degrees, which is great for sterilization. I put on my fire gloves from the grill, grabbed a jar at a time, and filled it with peaches. While all of this was happening, those peach skins went into a pot with 2 cups of sugar, 3 cups of filtered water, 2 teaspoons of powdered ginger , the zest of half a lemon and the juice of two lemons. I brought it to a boil and then reduced it to a simmer. covered it and let it simmer for about an hour. Someone told me that a whole lot of the peaches flavor gets lost when you blanche and remove the skins, so making a syrup using them put the color and flavor back. It yielded a deep-orangey red syrup.
I made a second pot of syrup by taking three cups of filtered water, two cups of sugar, and a split vanilla bean, bring to a boil and reduce to simmer to allow the vanilla to infuse into the syrup. This I didn’t strain, as I wanted vanilla pods to stay in the jars.
The jars were topped off with the syrups and then lids screwed on, but not completely, as that sometimes causes a pressure problem with the jars and causes them to explode. Once cooled a bit, I tightened the lids the rest of the way, and wiped down the sealed jars with soapy water containing a little bleach, rinsed and dried them and let them finish cooling on the counter.
In a couple weeks, I’ll pop down to Trickling Springs at Union Market in DC and get some of my favorite ice cream (Salted Caramel), maybe make some more cookies and put some of those peaches on my ice cream. I’m sure either of those syrups will also make a very exciting cocktail with a bit of Peychauds bitters, some Rye or Kentucky Bourbon, and a bit of seltzer to lighten things up a bit. If feeling festive, I might drop a slice of those canned and infused peaches in there.
There’s a taster in the fridge, and I am VERY pleased with the infusions so far, which will only intensify as they sit in a cool dark cupboard.