It's peach harvest time!

It is peach harvest time here.  We are on the third peach tree and this one is loaded with juicy, yellow peaches.  The tree, 'Red haven' is three years old and it is the first harvest we have had from it.

Last year, in my attempt to control fungal diseases during the wet spring, I sprayed biodynamic 501 during the fruit set period.  All of the stone fruit trees lost their fruit as the tree's pores tightened and the fruit was literally squeezed off. Needless to say, I was much more careful this year and we are being rewarded with trees laden with fruit.

We have apple and pear trees planted, so we hope that even in winter, we will have biodynamic fruit. But opening a bottle of preserved peaches to have over muesli or yogurt or ice cream sounds like such a treat, that we decided to preserve some of the harvest.

In most of the information we found about jarring peaches, they recommend blanching the peaches to remove the skins.  We found that on the perfectly ripe peaches, it was very easy to peel the skin using a sharp vegetable peeler to start with and then just grabbing the skin and pulling it off with our fingers.  These peaches are also "clingstone" peaches.  The pips do not easily come away from the flesh. So we used an apple corer to remove the pips.  We then gently simmered the skins and pips to make a peach juice which we used as the syrup for some of the jars.  We also used a honey syrup and then a sugar and vanilla syrup (recipes below).

Our tools - Sharp vegetable peelers, an apple corer and a bowl full of water with lemon juice

Peaches in Vanilla Syrup is a recipe from Liana Krissoff's book "Canning for a New Generation - Bold, Fresh Flavours for the Modern Pantry".  This book is available locally at Antipodes Gallery and Bookstore in Sorrento.

For the peach juice, we took the peelings and the flesh left around the pips, put it into 8 cups of water and gently simmered for about an hour.  Then we strained the flesh through a cheese cloth and used the warm juice for a sugar free syrup.

The honey syrup was 8 cups water with 1/4 cup of honey.

The vanilla syrup was recommended at 4 cups of sugar to 8 cups water.  But we used half that and I still wonder if the peaches need that much sugar.  We only did a few jars though, just to make Ms Krissoff's recipe Toffee Encrusted Vanilla Poached Peaches.  Just the thought of that delight had my daughter putting her apron on to help!

Instead of using "Fruit Fresh" or ascorbic acid to preserve the colour of the peaches while we were working, we just soaked them in a bowl of water with the juice from one lemon.  They are lovely and orange in the jars now.  I recon that over time, depending on light and oxygen left in the jars, they will eventually change colour.  But we hope to use all that we have jarred this winter, not store them for ten years.  I have jarred white nectarines before in juice as opposed to syrup, without using ascorbic acid.  The colour did turn to brown after a year but they still tasted wonderful.

So the preserving season has started for this year.  I get very excited seeing new produce on the pantry shelves.  And with the trees starting to produce fruit, we hope to offer a fruit share next year.