Saturday, January 8, 2011

A pot full of peaches

When buying some fruit and vege at Raeward on Wednesday, I noticed they had bags of bruised peaches going cheap. Recalling a couple of peach-based recipes in the 'pickles, chutneys and sauces' chapter, I bought some.

On inspection of the recipe possibilities, I chose peach sauce (p229) over peach chutney, since I had bottles available but no jars. I didn't have the ingredients I needed for the sauce though, so I'd have to wait until I got the rest of the ingredients on Thursday. The peaches had been cheap because they were bruised and beginning to spoil. I didn't want the spoiling to spread before I got the chance to do anything with them, so I separated the peaches out on trays and left them covered until I had the rest of the ingredients.

I arrived home on Thursday with all the ingredients I needed - or so I thought. The recipe is for 3kg of peaches; I had 2kg of damaged ones. I figured that after I'd cut out all the bruised bits, I'd have about the same amount of flesh that I'd get out of 1.5kg of good peaches, thus making for a half-recipe.

I'd bought all my ingredients based on this total, except that I'd assumed I had a litre of malt vinegar in the cupboard, recollecting a nearly full bottle. When I checked, I found it was actually half-full, and that the bottle was only 750ml anyway, not the 1L I'd expected. Vinegar's a very important ingredient, and I couldn't skimp on it. I considered going out to get some, but the evening was wearing on, and the recipe required 2 1/2 hours of cooking time. In the end I had to leave it for a further night.

On Friday night, I came home armed with a 2L bottle of vinegar, and immediately set to work. The peaches had stood the two extra days remarkably well, not deteriorating noticeably further from the standard they were in originally. I spent over an hour at the tedious task of chopping up the peaches, apples, tomatoes, onions and garlic. Not wanting another boiling-over episode like that with the strawberry jam, I dug out my big stockpot - and I was glad of it once I'd got all the ingredients in. You'd need a very big pot to make the full recipe I reckon!

With all the fruit in the pot, I added the vinegar, some salt and some sugar before turning to the spice drawer. To my dismay, I found that I had no ground cloves. Since it's something I'd usually have in the drawer, I hadn't even considered whether I'd need any or not. (Irritatingly, I'd made a special trip to buy some cayenne pepper, thinking I wouldn't have any, and the first thing I saw when I opened the drawer was an open packet of the stuff.)

Deciding my pot full of vingegared fruit would come to no harm spending half an hour on the kitchen bench, I put some shoes on, grabbed my bag and walked down to Supervalue for some ground cloves. On my return, I added the cloves, pepper, ground ginger and cayenne pepper, and (finally) got the pot on to boil.

It took quite a while coming to the boil, and once it did, I still had 2 1/2 hours to wait. The sauce boiled merrily away, wafting smells of vinegar and cloves through the house, as the fruit slowly broke down and went pulpy.

It was just before the 2 1/2 hour mark that I decided it'd boiled long enough. It was only a half-recipe after all, and I'd cooked it for nearly the full time. I took the pot off the heat and began on the next step: pressing the mixture through a colander. Since the only colander I have is fairly small, this took quite a long time. I got it done eventually, though, and put it back on the stove to heat through and thicken.

At this point the recipe leaves things up to you - you're supposed to "boil until preferred thickness". Well, I felt it was fairly thick already, so I only left it on for as long as it took to assemble my sterilised bottles and lids.

I ladled the sauce into the funnel very carefully, filling each bottle nearly to the brim. Soon I had 5 bottles of peach sauce, and still a bit left over. I decided to put this in a 6th bottle I'd prepared but didn't have a lid for. I could seal it off in some way and put the sauce in the fridge for immediate use. To my surprise, the leftover sauce filled the bottle right to the top.

Thinking I might have a lid somewhere that would fit my 6th bottle, I set it aside while I did a little cleanup. I was reflecting smugly on how little mess I'd made - very unusual for me - when, lifting the stock pot into the sink, I knocked over the one unsealed bottle and spilt it all over my beloved Edmonds book.

This is why I usually hang the book on a clip above the bench. I know my clumsy ways all too well.

I wiped the sauce off the page as best I could, but had to rinse the spiral binding under the tap, dampening the edges of a couple of dozen pages. Luckily, the oven was still warm from sterilising the bottles, and I put the Edmonds book inside, the dampest pages carefully separated from each other with kitchen towels.

While my book was drying out, I did a bit of cleanup. The lid I thought might fit my open bottle didn't, so I had to find another way of sealing it. I could have used a jam seal, except I'd run out, and I didn't even have any plastic wrap in the house! These two were in fact the sole items on my shopping list. In the end, I wrapped the bottle tightly in a plastic bag and put it in the fridge.

It was close to 11pm by the time I'd finished wiping down the bench and drying off the cookbook. I'd only been at it since before 5pm! The drying process worked quite well, by the way - a few stains over the peach sauce recipe are really the only lasting result of my mishap.

But I better not forget to mention what the stuff tastes like: spicy, fruity and a bit vinegary. I've had some with a bit of ham, and it tasted ok. I can see that it'll be useful for marinating or basting, or just as an accompaniment to cooked meats - chicken or perhaps pork is what comes to my mind. It'll work in sandwiches and toasties as well, come to think of it. 

The flavour will be even better after a few weeks' keeping, though I'll probably be looking at using the open one immediately. I'm glad that the effort I put into this one (which admittedly would have been less if I'd been more organised and got all the ingredients in one go) I've got some decent results.

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