Our local citrus, the oranges, lemons, grapefruits and kumquats, is relatively stable and can wait for a number of days in my cool, dark garage before we make marmalades. Barnaby dropped off a bag of white peaches on Monday and soon after Mimi dropped off a bag of apricots. These were all grown in the Encino / North Hollywood area of the San Fernando valley. Fragrant and delicate, these perishable fruits need to be preserved very quickly. With stone fruits, you are on their schedule. You are not the boss of them!
I knew that I was going to add some whole orange slices to this preserve, and since the orange peels are more dense than the peaches, they were started first. Three whole oranges were scrubbed, then a 1/4″ slice was cut from each end. They were halved lengthwise, the pithy core and seeds removed, then halved again (into cored quarters) and thinly sliced. These went into the cooking pot with just enough water to cover, and were cooked while I prepared the peaches. The white peaches were halved and pitted, then briefly dunked in boiling water so the skins slid right off.
>> Here is a tip: halve and pit the peaches before you blanch them to remove the skins. Once they are blanched, they become so slippery that halving and coring them is time-consuming and inefficient.
4 1/2 pounds of peaches resulted in 7 cups of skinned, roughly chopped peaches. I added these to the cooked orange slices when they had just about cooked dry. Add 4 1/2 cups of white sugar and 1/3 cup lemon juice,which is the juice of a large lemon – and this one looked so good, I grated a little peel into the pot as well. After adding a pinch of kosher salt, this was set to a high boil, and cooked for 35 minutes. You want to cook peaches rapidly to preserve the fresh flavor. The cooked preserves were ladled into prepared canning jars, and then processed for 10 minutes. My 4 1/2 pounds of peaches yielded 13 4 ounce jars, or 6 half pint jelly jars plus a bowl of preserves for the kitchen. My go-to tasters, my husband and sons, liked this one. They have pretty refined tastes and educated palates, so I am glad to have them around to sample the products and give their critiques. This should cure for a week in the canning jars before opening.
OK, the white peaches were finished and the apricots looked like they were at their prime. I already had the cooking pot out, the canner boiling, and the floor sticky; so why not do another batch? Those apricots were ticking…
This was a small-ish bag of apricots, and after they were halved and pitted, I had 3 cups of chopped apricots. Must Have More Fruit! I prepped three oranges to get two cups of chopped oranges using the afore-mentioned technique and started cooking them but felt like I needed some more bulk – fruit, not sugar, ’cause that’s how we roll. Some ripe red pears were in the fruit bowl, and these would balance out the sweetness of the apricots plus add a little texture. (Many of you know that pears are one of my favorite foods, they are so under-appreciated!) Four cups of chopped red pears went into the cooking pot and were brought to a boil. After a full boil was reached, the three cups of apricots, 1/2 cup of lemon juice and 5 cups of sugar were added.
>>For 9 cups of fruit, use 5 cups of sugar. Use a bit more than half the amount of sugar to fruit. And remember to add the acid, in this case it was fresh lemon juice.
Of course add a pinch of kosher salt, it is the addition that you don’t know is there, but you do notice it tastes a little flat without it. Bring to a brisk boil. With these fruits we want to cook quickly to capture that fresh flavor. This cooked for about 45 minutes and was processed for ten minutes.