Until the summer of 2007, the only peaches I knew were aggressively fuzzy and yellow-fleshed. I was perfectly content with those peaches, until I encountered Beechwood Orchards and their white peaches. Fragrant and floral, without any of the pucker that comes with yellow variety, I was sure and well hooked. I’d buy and consume a full quart of those perfect fruits each week. At nearly $5 a box, they were almost always my most expensive farmers’ market purchase each Sunday (this was when I was in grad school and operating on a very slim margin).
As far as eating out of hand goes, this summer I’ve swung back towards the acidic yellow peaches of my youth. But when it comes to cooking with stone fruit, I’m having something of a love affair with the white peach. You see, they smell like the best, most heady version of the peach-scented lotion I used during my teenage years, and I love how they take me back in time. They also taste terrific and I just can’t get enough.
In an attempt to capture some of that flavor and fragrance, I halved and peeled nearly 10 pounds of white peaches and cooked them down into a vanilla bean-flecked, slightly sweetened sauce. I got ten pints of sauce from those ten pounds of peaches. Seven pints were processed just as they were (with the addition of 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per pint for acidification – white peaches are in the grey zone as far as safe levels of acid) and the remaining three were cooked down using the slow cooker technique into four half pints of butter*.
I’ve yet to open one of these jars to taste the post-process product, but going into the jars, it was smooth (I did use an immersion blender during the final stage of cooking to get everything to an even consistency), easy on the tongue and containing the very essence of summer flavor. I look forward to opening one of these jars come January and stirring this sauce into yogurt or just eating it directing out of the pint with a spoon.
*The sauce that was cooked down into butter was also acidified, to ensure safety. I did some research and found that when the average white peach is tested for acidity, it has a pH of 4.5. This is in the canning grey zone and is similar to modern tomatoes (which we also acidify). Yellow peaches have a greater amount of acidity and so could be made into a sauce without need for additional acid.
And now for the giveaway part (you didn’t think I was going to forget that, did you?). The folks at Nielson-Massey have given me three tubes of vanilla beans to give to my readers. Each tube contains two vanilla beans of the very highest quality. Entries will be accepted through Wednesday, August 18th at 11:59 p.m. Just leave a comment on this post and include your favorite way to use vanilla.
- 10 pounds of peaches, halved and peeled (I peel my peaches by cutting them in half and then blanching them in boiling water for 45-60 seconds. Once the peaches are cool enough to handle, the skin should just lift away)
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
- 10 tablespoons bottled lemon juice (this is 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
- Cook the peaches down in a large, non-reactive pot, using a potato masher to help them break down and release their juice. Add the vanilla bean seeds and the pod so that the vanilla flavor will infuse all the peaches.
- After approximately 20 minutes over medium heat, the peaches should be fairly well cooked down. Remove the vanilla bean from the pot (making sure to squeeze all the goodness from it). If you like your sauce chunky, leave as is. If you want a smoother consistency, puree with an immersion blender.
- Taste and add sugar to achieve your desired sweetness. I found a happy, flavorful place at 3 cups, but depending on the innate sweetness in the peaches, you might be able to stop at 2 cups. Or you might need to add more. It’s up to you.
- Pour peach sauce into pint jars, leaving a bit more than an inch of headspace. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to each jar and stir in with a chopstick or plastic spoon. Wipe rims, apply lids and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water canner.
- If you want to make butter from some of the sauce, reserve 6-8 cups of sauce and cook down in a slow cooker (making sure to add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice for every two cups of sauce at the beginning of cooking).