Vanilla Bean Infused Peach Slices #fijchallenge #CanItForward

Just shortly after I returned from Ireland a friend let me in on a little secret: There were some excellent blueberries to be had in town and if I was lucky the person selling them may just have some plump Georgia pecans too. Unfortunately by the time I managed to get out the door the pecans were all gone, but I lucked out and in addition to my blueberries I was able to bring home a bushel of over-ripe Georgia peaches for half off. Never one to pass up a deal, especially on peaches, I happily handed over my hard earned money and spent the next few days finding creative ways to preserve them.

And then I ran out of steam... What was I thinking buying 48 pounds of peaches?

After making two cases of pie filling in a variety of flavors and playing around with a new flavor of peach applesauce I decided to cut my creative endeavors short. Everything I had left got sliced up and preserved with a vanilla bean infused syrup, which just may be one of the simplest ways to preserve peaches. 

Vanilla Bean Infused Peach Slices | Not Starving Yet

Vanilla Bean Infused Peaches


makes 9 pints


Ingredients

6½ cups water
¾ cup sugar
4½ vanilla beans, cut in half and sliced down the center (see notes)
11 pounds yellow peaches
Lots of ice, to help with peeling

Directions

  • Before beginning, sterilize your jars and rings in the dishwasher. As per the new canning guidelines lids no longer need to be sterilized if they'll be in the water bath for more than 10 minutes.
  • Prepare a light syrup made of water and sugar in a large saucepan, bring the mixture to a boil, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the vanilla beans to the hot syrup, turn off the heat, and allow the vanilla beans to infuse while you peel your peaches.
  • Dip the peaches in a large pot of boiling water for 30 - 60 seconds, or until the skins start to loosen. Quickly drop the peaches in a bowl of ice water and slip the skins off. Cut the peaches in half, remove the pit, then slice into equal-sized pieces. 
  • Add the peach slices to the sugar syrup and bring to a boil. Fill your sterilized jars with fruit and a slice of vanilla bean. Once the jars are full add syrup, making sure to leave ½ inch headspace at the top of the jar. 
  • Tap the jars gently to remove any air bubbles that may have become trapped, wipe the rims of the jars to remove any access syrup, then add a new canning lid. Make sure to tighten the ring securely before placing the jars in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes (pint jars) or 25 minutes (quart jars.)
  • Remove the jars from the water bath and set them on a dish towel to cool. After the jars have cooled completely check the seals and refrigerate any jars that do not have a good seal.

Notes

I have occasionally run out of syrup when canning peaches, but it's easy to make more as needed without making up a full batch of syrup. 1 cup of water, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and ½ a vanilla bean is usually enough to fill the last jar should you run out. Any extra syrup can be refrigerated and used later, as long as you remember to bring the refrigerated syrup to a full boil.

If you want to put up a large amount of peaches I suggest trying to find the freestone variety, the pits practically fall out when you cut the peaches in half which saves a surprising amount of time. 

Apple Cider Syrup #Unprocessed

Since our trip to the pumpkin patch earlier in the month I've had apple cider doughnuts on my mind. Even if they are made from scratch, they aren't considered unprocessed so I wondered if I could make a less processed version at home. I've been in recipe development mode all week trying to get the right balance of flavors, but while the doughnuts taste good, they aren't great — yet. I'm ready for a short break from this project so I thought I would put the recipe on the back burner for now and move on, but I didn't want to leave you without a recipe of some sort.

It just so happens that another recipe came out of all of my kitchen experiments and it happens to be an unprocessed sweetener. Apple cider syrup isn't something I was familiar with, but I stumbled across it on the King Arthur Flour website and thought, hey I bet I could make that. It's really quite simple, you take a half gallon of unsweetened apple cider and boil it down until it thickens. The resulting syrup is incredibly sweet and can be used as a topping for pancakes or an addition to baked goods to give them more apple flavor. It's quite versatile and has the added benefit of making your entire house smell like autumn.

Apple Cider Syrup
makes approximately 8 ounces or a half-pint

Ingredients

½ gallon fresh apple cider *see notes

Directions

  • In a large pot bring the apple cider to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-high. Continue to simmer the cider for approximately 2 hours or until it has reduced in half. 
  • If you accidentally cook your cider down more than you had intended you can save it, just add a small amount of apple cider back into the syrup, stir until well combined and cook down more if necessary.
  • This recipe can be stored in the refrigerator for several months or canned using a water-bath. Pint, half-pint, and quarter-pint jars will be processed for 15 minutes. For complete canning instructions you can visit my Crock-Pot Applesauce recipe the process is identical.

Notes

If you're looking to use this as a natural sweetener you'll want to use an apple cider that doesn't contain preservatives or other added ingredients. Many of the varieties sold in the store contain Potassium Sorbate or Sodium Benzoate, which is used as a preservative. I purchased a gallon of cider from one of our local farms that is unfiltered, unsweetened, and has no preservatives.

Vanilla Bean Peach Butter

I know I say this every year, but where in the world has summer gone? It seems like yesterday I was spending my days working on my tan, or what passes for a tan in Wisconsin, while my son spent his day swimming in his wading pool. Those days are behind me for now, fall has made an early appearance and the past few weeks have been down right chilly for the tail end of summer. As much as I'm sad to see my lazy days outside come to an end, I do look forward to the flavors that fall brings. I love all things pumpkin and spice, but I'm not quite ready to embrace them yet. I still have several pounds of juicy summer peaches to put up, so I've been taking advantage of the cooler weather to make fruit butter. Several weeks ago I made a small batch of No Fuss Crock-Pot Apricot Butter. It turned out so well that I've decided that my remaining peaches are destined to become fruit butter as well. I've put up about 6 pints over the last few weeks which means this winter I can pull out a jar and enjoy a little taste of summer when things are looking cold and dreary. With our high temperatures hovering in the low 50s I have a feeling it's going to be a long cold winter this year. I'm going to need all the reminders of summer that I can get! 

PeachButter.jpg

Peach Butter
makes 5 half pints

Ingredients

5lbs peaches
1 vanilla bean
1 cup white sugar 

Equipment

immersion blender (optional)
water-bath canner or stock pot with lifter
7 half pint canning jars with lids and rings
jar grabber
magnetic lid lifter
funnel
butter knife
ladle
clean dish towels and cloths 

Directions

  • Remove the skins from the peaches. Boil a large pot of water, add peaches, and blanch for 1 minute, or until skins start to crack. Depending on the size of your pot you may need to work in batches. 
  • Transfer blanched peaches to cold water and once cool the skins should easily peel off. Remove pits and skins, then place in crock pot. 
  • Open vanilla bean pod with a knife and scrape the insides into the crockpot. Once insides are removed, toss the entire pod in with the peaches.
  • Cook on low for 8 - 10 hours. Make sure to leave the lid off to allow the steam to escape. 
  • After 8 hours the contents of the crock pot should have reduced roughly in half, if they have not you can continue to cook the peaches down until they have reached the desired consistency. 
  • Remove vanilla bean pod, add sugar, then stir until well incorporated.
  • Fill hot canning jars and process using the water bath canning directions below.

Processing times for this recipe

are 15 minutes for elevations of 0-1,000 ft and 20 minutes for elevations of 1,001-6,000 ft. These times are for quarter-pints, half-pints and pints only.

  • Before canning sterilize your canning jars, rings, potato masher, and any other equipment that will come into contact with the apricot butter. You can do this easily by putting everything in the dishwasher and running it. Just don't put your equipment in with dirty dishes.
  • While your jars are sterilizing fill your stock pot with water and let it boil. It takes awhile for a large pot of water to boil, so keep this in mind. You don't want to fill your jars before your water is ready.
  • Once you're ready to fill your jars, place a sauce pan on the stove. Add your canning lids and fill pan with several inches of water. Bring the water to a simmer and allow the sealing wax on the lids to soften for several minutes.
  • Fill sterilized jars with hot apricot butter leaving 1/2 inch head space at the top. Remove air bubbles with a knife, wipe the rims with a clean damp rag, place lids on top and fasten ring until finger tight.
  • Place sealed jars on a rack in the canner or stock pot. Make sure jars are covered with water and that the waterline is about an inch over the top of the jars, then cover pot with lid.

You do not want the jars coming into contact with the bottom of the canner or stock pot because they will bounce around and likely break.

  • Process half pints and pints for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Time starts once the water has come to a complete boil again. You may need to add boiling water to keep the water level up as the jars are processing.

 

  • Remove jars from canner, set on a clean dish towel, and let them rest for several hours until cool. You should hear a popping sound as the lids seal. 
  • To check the seals of your jars press the center gently with your finger. If it moves up and down the jar is not sealed. You can either reprocess using a new lid never reuse an old lid or once the jar is cool, eat the apricot butter. You know you want to and you deserve the treat after such hard work!
  • Label with detailed contents and date, then store in a cool, dark, and dry place.

Other Notes

If you aren't happy with the texture of your butter try using an immersion blender to create a smoother texture. I don't mind the chunky texture so I generally skip the blender.

Easy Crock-Pot Applesauce

I almost managed to let fall go by without posting an apple recipe. I just couldn't let that happen so I made a run to the local apple orchard in the next town over and bought a ton of apples (by a ton I mean 16lbs.) I'm absolutely fortunate to live by not one, not two, but three apple orchards so this time of year good quality apples are in abundance in my household. In the past I may have told you that I'm not really a huge fan of apples, but that just isn't the case any longer. This year I found my perfect sauce apple, called Snow Sweet. It was developed by the University of Minnesota for cold weather climates and is a cross between Sharon and Connell Red varieties.

There are so many aspects of this particular apple that make it perfect for sauce, but it's great for fruit trays as well because it is slow to oxidize and turn brown. 

Crockpot_Applesauce.jpg

Easy Crock-Pot Applesauce
makes roughly 8 half pints or 4 pints

Ingredients

10-12 medium sized apples
1 Vanilla Bean, split lengthwise
2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Optional:

cinnamon or other spices
sugar, either brown or white

Equipment

Apple peeler/corer/slicer
potato masher or food processor
water-bath canner or stock pot with lifter
8 - 10 half pint canning jars with lids and rings
jar grabber
magnetic lid lifter
funnel 
butter knife
ladle
clean dish towels and cloths 

Directions

  • Wash and peel apples, place in crock-pot, then cover with lemon juice to prevent browning.

Thinner apples will cook much faster. This is where an apple peeler/corer/slicer comes in handy, it will also cut your time peeling apples in half. Beg or borrow one if you can, you won't regret it.

  • Open vanilla bean pod with a knife and scrape the insides into the applesauce. Once insides are removed, toss the entire pod in with the apples.
  • OPTIONAL: Add sugar to taste. Personally I prefer not to use sugar and instead use a sweeter variety of apple.
  • Cook on high for 3 - 4 hours, or until apples mash easily. You can also puree the applesauce in a food processor if you'd like a finer sauce, but I prefer mine chunky.
  • While waiting for applesauce to cook, sterilize your canning jars, rings, potato masher, and any other equipment that will come into contact with the applesauce. You can do this easily by putting everything in the dishwasher and running it. Just don't put your equipment in with dirty dishes.
  • While your jars are sterilizing fill your stock pot with water and let it boil. It takes awhile for a large pot of water to boil, so keep this in mind. You don't want to fill your jars before your water is ready.
  • Once you're ready to fill your jars, place a sauce pan on the stove. Add your canning lids and fill pan with several inches of water. Bring the water to a simmer and allow the sealing wax on the lids to soften for several minutes.
  • Fill sterilized jars with hot applesauce leaving 1/2 inch head space at the top. Remove air bubbles with a knife, wipe the rims with a clean damp rag, place lids on top and fasten ring until fingertip tight.

Boiling Water Canning

  • Place sealed jars in on a rack in the canner or stock pot and cover with a lid.

You do not want the jars coming into contact with the bottom of the canner or stock pot because they will bounce around and likely break.

  • Process half pints and pints for 15 minutes, quarts for 20 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Time starts once the water has come to a complete boil again. You may need to add boiling water to keep the water level up as the jars are processing.
  • Remove jars from canner, set on a clean dish towel and let them rest for several hours until cool. You should hear a popping sound as the lids seal. 
  • To check the seals of your jars press the center gently with your finger. If it moves up and down the jar is not sealed. You can either reprocess using a new lid (never reuse an old lid) or once the jar is cool, eat the applesauce. You know you want to and you deserve the treat after such hard work!
  • Label with detailed contents and date, then store in a cool, dark, and dry place.

Other Notes

Make sure to experiment with the flavors different types of apples will produce. I used an even mix of Snow Sweet and Macoun apples for this batch. You likely won't be able to find these particular types unless you live in Minnesota where they were developed, although I know of several orchards in Wisconsin who grow them now.

My local orchard suggested starting will Cortland apples as a base and picking a slightly tart apple to offset some of the sweetness.