It's a Process
We're still working our way through the peach harvest. We're eating as many as we can fresh and giving some away, but we also have to process most of them. Peaches have a pretty short shelf life, so despite being in the midst of a big home renovation project — one that has a major impact on the kitchen, I might add — we had to get it done. I already made jam the other day, and tonight Kirk and I tag-teamed another 15-20 pounds of peaches in a pair of canning projects.
First up, chutney:
The recipe I am using is from River Cottage: Courgette and Peach Chutney. In case you're not fancy, "courgette" is British-talk for zucchini. A big recipe that burns through lots of peaches and a giant zucchini? Brilliant.
So in the pot above is the rough chop of zucchini, onion, and peach. These peaches were first blanched, peeled, and pitted by pulling them apart with my hands. That should give you an idea of how much they have softened over the past couple days — this was all a piece of cake, unlike the infamous jam day earlier this week.
There are lots of other spices to mix in, plus sugar and vinegar. Then you cook it down for a long, long time to get rid of all the water. The recipe said at least 90 minutes, but ours cooked for about twice that, until it looked like this:
It's all caramelized and thick. It's sweet and sour, and spicy too. I forgot to mention that there are also three chopped jalapeños in there — the first of the year. Last year our jalapeños were incredibly bland and not at all spicy, so I was psyched that this year's are packing heat!
While that was simmering away, Kirk and I got an assembly line going to can up a whole lotta peaches. I blanched and shocked them in cold water, we both peeled them (depending on who had a free hand), and Kirk halved and pitted them. Then he dropped them into a two-gallon crock of cool water to keep them from browning while we worked.
Then we packed them in jars (I was too busy to take many pictures, but there's a great tutorial on canning peaches at pickyourown.org), covered them in a light syrup (2 cups honey brought to a boil in 4 cups of water), and got them into the canner:
Sure, it's boiling now, but it takes a couple hours to get to that point (even with the pot covered, which of course it was, except for a brief moment to load and unload). Canning takes forever. The peaches need to be boiled in the canner for 30 minutes, but you can't start counting until the water comes back up to a boil after you put them in ... why do we always do this at night? All told, we were up to our elbows in peaches for a good four and a half hours by the time the last cans came out. At one point, every burner on the stove was in use, with things bubbling away.
Anyway, we've got a half dozen lovely quarts of canned peach halves:
As soon as these came out, we topped off the canner with more hot water and got cracking on jarring up the chutney, which was, by that time, nice and thick. Still more boiling to finish off the peach chutney:
So we have four pints of this, which I'm pretty excited about. We're supposed to let it sit for six months to let the flavors develop, so I guess that's why people give chutneys as Christmas gifts. Though since I put this is big jars instead of little, pretty ones, I guess I'll just have to keep it for myself. It should make for some great wintertime dinners!