August 16, 2012
Peach Basil Preserves
Although I know that I love the process of preserving fruits and vegetables because they taste good, they are beautiful, it is satisfying to fill the jars, and I feel rich with a pantry full of many of the flavors of summer, I still ask myself why I do it. I know that I would rather make food myself than buy it already made but sometimes in this world of time saving convenience and instant gratification I can't understand why I choose the homemade way.
I recently reread this essay by Wendell Berry in which he writes, "The pleasure of eating should be extensive pleasure, not that of the mere gourmet." He explains that knowing the story of your food and knowing that it comes from a healthy enjoyable place, like a thriving garden or contented animal, means that "you eat with understanding and with gratitude" and you will enjoy it more. Even if you aren't growing or raising your food, connecting to the process of making it ensures that it will taste better and be more pleasurable. I know that is true in my life.
I know these peaches came from a family farm in Colorado, but the story of the preserves is my own. The other day I cut into a fresh peach on the same spot on the cutting board where I had recently chopped some fresh basil. The sweetness of the peach combined with the distinct flavor of the herb to create something quite wonderful. I had been planning to make ginger peach preserves and decided that they should be peach basil preserves instead. The fruit and the herb contrast perfectly in a jam that is both sweet and savory.
Peach Basil Preserves
This recipe is adapted from a recipe for peach butter in Put Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton. To remove the skins of the peaches you can either peel them or dunk them in boiling water for 30 seconds, then place them in a bowl full of ice water, the skins should slip off easily.
2 cups water
1/4 cup lemon juice
6 pounds ripe peaches
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup basil leaves, sliced into thin strips
Remove the skins of the peaches (see above). Bring the water and lemon juice to a boil in a non-reactive pot. Cut the skinless peaches into quarters. Before adding each quarter to the pot, squeeze it over the pot to crush the fruit and catch the juices, then drop it in the pot. When all of the peaches have been added bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the peaches are soft. Cool slightly and then puree the peaches using a blender or a food mill. Return the puree to the pot and add the sugar. Let it simmer over medium low heat for about 45 minutes or until thickened somewhat. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. After 45 minutes stir in the chopped basil and remove from heat.
To can: ladle the preserves into clean, hot half pint jars leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe rims, and cover with lids and screw bands. Process for 10 minutes. Remove from the water bath, let cool for 24 hours. Check the seals then store for up to a year.
Makes 8 half pints.