Monday, July 8, 2013

Bourbon "Brandied" Peaches

Bourbon "Brandied" Peaches have a history with me, or at least, a story. I remember my father talking about burying jars of brandied peaches on the lawn to give them time to age. I also remember him saying that the burier then forgot where said peaches were buried, so holes were dug all over the lawn to find the peaches. Forty-five years later, I still have a mental image of our lawn in Massachusetts with holes all over it, as if it had been attacked by an army of gophers.
Someone named boyzoma on also remembers his father burying brandied peaches in holes in the yard, so clearly I'm not hallucinating. Since my father's peaches were buried in either Massachusetts or Connecticut, he must have had to dig down pretty deep to put them below the frost line. If the jars froze, they would explode, right?
Well, rest assured, you don't have to bury these peaches. In fact, they are delectable immediately after they are canned. They are really good, and fabulous with cream. It's peach season. Buy some cheap bourbon, go to your local pick-your-own establishment, and get to work. You will need a case of wide mouth quart canning jars, rings and lids, a kettle called a boiling water bath, and a rack to lift the hot jars out of the water. The jars, rings and lids are probably available now, in July and August, at your local supermarket. The boiling water bath you can get from Walmart or Williams Sonoma, or a hardware store in a community that cans.
What you should not do is use the recipe as written in The New York Times Heritage Cookbook. If there was ever an instance where Jean Hewitt did not test her recipes, (and, as you constant readers of this blog will know, she didn't) this is one.
Hewitt starts out telling her readers to obtain about 80 good size peaches for 9 to 12 quarts of peaches, and then make a syrup using 4 cups of water and nine pounds of sugar. As anyone with even an elemental knowledge of mathematics or cooking would know, 4 cups of water is barely enough to moisten nine pounds of sugar. Also, twelve quart jars, even filled with whole peaches, would need at least two cups each to fill in around the peaches So that makes 24 cups or 8 quarts of water or at least two gallons. I say at least because the directions say to cook the syrup down to make it thicker.
Maybe today's peaches are bigger than those back in the day. I had 12 peaches, which made almost enough  to fill four quart jars. If 12 quarts of peaches sound like too many peaches, 15 should be enough to make 4 quarts, and for 12 quarts you wouldn't need more than 60 peaches.
Make sure your peaches are ripe, especially if you buy them at the grocery store. I left mine in a bowl on the counter for a week, until Bob pointed out that they were definitely ripe and I had better can them soon before I would have to throw them away.  At that point, if you put them in boiling water for a couple of minutes, they are easy to peel.
I actually got caught in the mathematics of reducing the recipe. I started out with 4 cups of water, and about three cups of sugar, mainly because that was all the sugar we had.. Then, I just dumped in the bourbon. I recognize that this is not particularly helpful for novices who wish to create an authentic recipe. I must have used about 2 cups of bourbon. I ended up having to make more syrup. About the muslin bag that is supposed to enclose the cinnamon sticks and the cloves. I didn't have a muslin bag, or the patience to make one, so I threw the cinnamon sticks in whole and put the cloves in a tea ball. You could just throw in the cloves too and fish them out with a slotted spoon before you poured the syrup into the jars. Don't get caught up in irrelevant details.
I did boil the syrup, do the math and discover what 222 degrees Fahrenheit works out to in degrees Celsius. The answer is 103 degrees Celsius. I probably boiled the syrup for half an hour and then filled the jars. At that point, I had to go back and make more syrup because I did not have enough.
At the end, the recipe says "Seal." Huh? Seal means boil your jars of canned food in the boiling water bath for a set amount of time. Different fruits and vegetables have to be processed for different times. According to the Ohio State University Extension Service, peaches in quart jars should be processed in boiling water for 30 minutes. So, put the jars in the water and make sure they are covered, turn on the heat, and when the water starts boiling, set the timer. This kills germs in the food and prevents botulism, a very unpleasant result of improper canning.
So, is this worth the effort? I think so, especially if you like peaches and bourbon. Read up on the canning process first.. There are many websites that can instruct you.
In case you are wondering why these are Bourbon Brandied Peaches, I am too. If anyone knows, please instruct the rest of us.

Bourbon "Brandied" Peaches

60 ripe peaches
9 pounds sugar
12 cups of water
4 sticks cinnamon, broken
2 tablespoons whole cloves
2 fifths bourbon

1. Scald the peaches, a few at a time and peel.
2. Dissolve the sugar in the water. Tie the cinnamon sticks and cloves in a muslin bag (or put the cloves in a tea ball and put the cinnamon sticks in whole. Bring to a boil. When syrup is clear, add the peaches a few at a time, and simmer until barely tender. Do not overcook.
3. Drain fruit on a platter, returning excel syrup to pan, and repeat until all fruit is cooked. Boil the syrup until it is slightly thickened. (222 degrees on a candy thermometer.) Cool slightly.
4. Stir in the bourbon. Place the fruit as it drains in hot sterilized jars. Cover with bourbon syrup. Seal. Store in cool, dark, dry place. Makes nine to twelve quarts of peaches.

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