Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Canning: Niagara Peaches in Cardamom Vanilla Bean Syrup

For as long as I can remember I've loved peaches and hated how unavailable they are for most of the year.  Growing up in the New England most of our peaches came from the south and when my father started working in South Carolina he'd ship cartons of South Carolina peaches home.  It was like Christmas for me when those cartons would show up on our doorstep.  Barely being able to wait to open the box and smell that sweet peach smell and dig right into a perfectly ripe piece of fruit.  There are few food memories I have that bring a smile to my face the way those cartons of peaches do. 

Cut to the summer of 2009, when I moved to Toronto where I learned about the fabulous little jewels that are grown just and hour and a half away, Niagara peaches.  Since I generally try to focus on ingredients that are grown or produced locally, I LOVE that you can get peaches that are grown less than 100 miles away.  I love supporting local farmers and providing jobs to people in Ontario and most importantly I love the way the peaches taste.  The sweet peachy-orange flesh that just melts in your mouth.  When they are perfectly ripe they have a beautiful ombre to their skin that goes from a pale peach all the way to a deep red.  The fuzz is soft and the fruit gives just the right amount to the touch.  I use them in my peach basil jam, in pies and I just eat them.

Niagara peaches are smaller than the ones I'm used to getting from the South, but they are oh so sweet.  Nothing makes me happier than going to the supermarket and seeing the 3 liter baskets of Niagara peaches.  They are good from the grocery store, but once you start seeing them there, you know you'll also find then at local farmer's markets too.  If I'm desperate I'll get them at the grocery store but my preferred place to buy is at my local Farmer's Market the Birchcliff Village Market.  A few Friday's ago I bought a couple 3 liter baskets at the market.  They were ripe and beautiful freestone peaches, the best kind for breaking down because the stone comes out so easily.  I would have happily worked away at them, eating them, putting them in smoothies, baking up a storm.  One of my favorite peach recipes is Smitten Kitchen's Peach Cupcakes.  But I stopped myself, knowing that peach season was drawing to a close, I wanted to find a way to preserve this lovely fruit that I love so much.

Enter my canning obsession.  The boy and I canned two bushels of tomatoes a couple weeks ago and it got both of thinking about what other summer fruits and vegetables we could preserve for the long cold Ontario winters.  I decided what better way to keep these peaches for use in all kinds of desserts this winter than to can them.  Now I could have just canned them in light syrup or water, but I wanted to take the opportunity to make these peaches even better.  I loved the way the vanilla and cardamon worked with the peaches in my Vanilla Cardamom Peach Pie and decided to infuse those flavors in the canning syrup.

Niagara Peaches in Cardamom Vanilla Bean Syrup.

6L of Niagara peaches or medium size southern peaches
6 cups of water
2 cups granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
7 cardamom pods

1.  Using a mortal and pestle break open the cardamom pods and extract the seeds.  Place the seeds, vanilla bean, water and sugar in a 4 quart saucepan.  Heat over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and keep syrup hot but not boiling until ready to add to jars.
2.  Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and prepare a large bowl of ice cold water.  Pour half of the peaches into the water and let boil for 40 seconds.  Remove the peaches to the ice bath.  Let sit for a few minutes.  Prepare the peaches by cutting in half, removing the stone and them sliding off the skins.  Repeat with the remaining peaches.  You can leave the peaches as halves or slice them as I did, I had a limited number of jars and wanted to make sure all of the peaches fit.
3.  Prepare your jars, I used 7 500ml Mason jars.  Run through your dishwasher, if it has a sanitize cycle you can use them straight from the dishwasher.  If not I place the jars only in the oven at 250F for 10 minutes to sanitize.  Place the snap lids (please only use new snap lids, don't ever reuse them) in a small saucepan of water over medium low heat for 5 minutes, to get the gel ring soft.  Bring the water in the you hot water canner to a boil in preparation fro the jars.
4. Carefully pack the peaches tightly into the jars.  You want them full but you don't want to damage the fruit.  Once packed ladle the hot syrup into each jar.  Take a butter knife and stick it into each jar to agitate the fruit and syrup just enough to release any air bubbles.  Place snap lids on each jar and screw on rings.
5.  Place jars into the boiling hot water canner and boil for 25 minutes.  Remove the jars to a heat protected surface where they can rest undisturbed for 24 hours.  after 24 hours they are done and ready for storage in a cool dark place, like your basement.

If you've never canned before there is no need to be intimidated and there are very few tools you need.  My jar lifters, funnel and magnet for the snap lips are the most important to me.  All a hot water canner is a large pot with a metal rack that keeps the jars just a bit away from the heat.  If you don't have one, you can easily use a large stock pot and place some rags or kitchen towels at the bottom to insulate a bit.  My method of canning is something I've out together from various sources and my own research and trial and error.  You should do what you are most comfortable with and do your own research.  Check out the Ball Blue Book to Preserving too.

I love the way these turned out and can't wait to use them for easy winter desserts, like pouring them over a delicious piece of pound cake or angel food cake.  It will be like a taste of the summer in the winter.



Jess said...

These look most delicious! I think you need to send me some :-)

Jess said...

These look most delicious! I think you need to send me some :-)

Christine said...

oh - I am in Buffalo - so I know all too well about the wonderful Niagara peaches. I have it on my list to do some peach canning this weekend too. The season is ending really soon :(