Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Preserve a Little Summer : Peach Butter

Two words: Peach Butter
Peaches + Sugar + Lemon = Summer in a jar = sweet warm sunshine for the middle of winter

Our peach tree did absolutely nothing this year, and by nothing I mean it didn't even blossom.  Heartbreaking -- I was very much looking forward to my first great crop of peaches.  However, peaches in other parts of the country must be doing well, because our local market had boxes and boxes of peaches at very lovely price.  So I got some.

And I set off to make peach butter.  A quick blanch of the peaches in boiling water helps the peels come off, and I peeled, pitted, and chopped about 4+ pounds (I don't have a kitchen scale, so weight measurements are tricky), and set them in a pot to cook down to softness.  I also added the zest and juice of a lemon to both balance the flavour and add acid for canning.

When the peaches were soft, I spooned them into the blender to break down even further, to a smooth, spreadable consistency.  Four blenderfuls later, I had about 7.5 cups of peach puree, to which I added sugar (about 3.5 cups), and put it back on the stove to cook down and thicken up.


The jars had been preparing, so I spooned peach/lemon/sugar mixture into hot jars and put them in the hot water canner to process for about 15 minutes.

When they were done, I had five beautiful half pints and 4 quarter pints ("jelly-sized) of peach butter -- perfect for reminding me in January and February that summer is not a figment of my imagination -- and great for gifts, too!

You can find great peach butter recipes in these two books -- one for regular peach butter (like you see here) and one for roasted peach butter, which is also delicious, but takes more peaches (I made some of that, too).

Peaches: peeled, pitted, chopped
Lemon: juice & zest (one lemon for 7-8 cups of puree)
Sugar: about 1/2 cup for each cup of pureed peach

Cook the chopped peaches (add a little water to the bottom of the pot) until they are soft and smashable.  Spoon peaches into blender or food processor in small batches.  Puree/blend until smooth and spreadable but not liquid.  Pour peaches into clean pot and add in lemon and sugar; stir in until sugar is dissolved.  Heat mixture at medium heat until it reaches a jam-like density*.
Meanwhile, prepare your jars.  Clean and heat lids, rings, and jars -- sizes and amount vary by amount of peach butter.
When the peach butter has reached the right consistency, pour into jars.  Wipe off the mouths of the jars and top with lids and rings.  Process in hot water canner for 15 minutes for half-pint jars.

If you have a little extra that doesn't fit in a jar, there's no harm in just sticking it in the fridge to eat in the summer!

*To test for jam and fruit butter readiness, drop a small, small spoonful onto a chilled plate.  If it spreads and/or separates, it's not ready yet.  If it holds its shape like a blob of jam, it's good to go.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Fix it, Mend it, Make it Better


I was really hoping this post would be a great how-to for fixing a sprung couch.  But when I opened up the bottom of the couch last week to fix the springs, they were all in order.  I realized that the problems with our couch, though caused in part by the pulling of the springs, are more about the frame (which was constructed with staples!), and fixing that is going to take a lot more work than I had time, tools, or strength for that day.

But I love fixing things.  If you fix something, and fix it yourself, you don't have to pay someone else to do it for you, don't have to buy a new one, and don't have to throw out the old one.  More skills, less waste, more satisfaction, less money.

Three things I've actually fixed in the last few months:

Kitchen faucet, spraying water sideways.
CLRed the aerator.  Otherwise, because the faucet is so old (and small), I probably would have had to purchase and replace the whole faucet setup.

Toilet, running.
Replaced the rubber gasket.  This toilet is no longer wasting water!

Vacuum, not vacuuming.
This I do pretty regularly -- clean out EVERYTHING.  Take apart, rinse, clean, and dry.  This 9-year-old cheap vacuum is still pulling up the dog hair from the carpet.

Have something that's not working right? or something that's broken?  Try fixing it before you throw it out and get a new one.  Don't know where to start?  Search it up online -- there are lots of great fix-it sites out there and a lot of great fix-it videos, too.  Learn something new and have fun!
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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Today in 5 Pictures: June 19

Clementine is feeling broody.

Working on removing more burning bushes -- hopefully making way for more berry plants and fewer allergies.

Mabel loves scratching through the planters.

Peas!  (They were advertised as bush, but are behaving more like vine.)

Colourful lettuce assortment.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Chickens & Salad (not chicken salad)


Though my true gardening skill can be witnessed in the overgrowth of the rare delicacy known as crabgrass, this is what accompanied our grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner tonight.  Everything but the pecans were picked from the garden just minutes before dinner went on the table -- 5 kinds of lettuce, kale, spinach, basil, arugula, strawberries.  Delicious!

The girls love when I'm picking strawberries -- they eagerly await the ones the chipmunks started to eat and never finished -- you can see the corner of the strawberry patch on the left.  What you can't see in this picture is the rhubarb they demolished.  I'm hoping it comes back strong next year (especially considering that it has never been strong, which is kind of a problem, because it's rhubarb and it's supposed to be overgrown!).  
This is Clementine (buff orpington) and Mabel (silver-laced wyandotte) scrounging around the gardens for nibbles.

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