29 Jul

Farm Life is Just Peachy

I haven’t posted in a while, because we’ve been busy moving from Rhode Island to Southern Maryland.  We’re loving the small farm we bought, and are finally settling in and getting organized!  Our new farm has about 35 mature fruit trees, but it turns out the deer and squirrels are the ones reaping the harvest so far.  We want to manage our small bit of paradise using organic and permaculture frameworks, but we have a lot to learn!

My father-in-law brought us a beautiful basket of peaches on his last visit.  It was so wonderful to see that juicy, vibrant bounty that the girls and I dove right in and decided to make some peach pie filling.  I couldn’t even find all my canning supplies, so we went ahead and used our Costco large glass drink dispenser to make the pie filling!  It ended up being SO easy, and SO fun for the girls…here’s what we did.

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Nutritional Notes:  The problem with canning any fruit is dealing with sugar.  I broke down and bought some organic raw cane sugar to make this recipe, although I plan on experimenting with honey and stevia in the future.  Baby steps!

Ingredients:

Peaches: Approximately 13# ripe peaches, weighed after washed & peeled & pits removed

Dip to lock in color: a gallon of water (or close to it, your biggest bowl) + 2 tbsps sea salt + 2 tbspns white vinegar, mixed together

Sugar: The vintage canning book I used called for 5 cups of sugar for every 6# of fruit; I more than halved this and used 5 cups organic raw cane sugar for all 13# (and it was VERY sweet…to us…I could have used 2 cups)

Citric Acid:  I used 2 1/2 cups of lemon juice.

Water: I used 8 cups of water to make my syrup/brine.

Spices:  I used 2 tablespoons of cinnamon, 1 tablespoon nutmeg, 1 teaspoon whole cloves.

It’s really that simple!

Directions:

Peel all the peaches, slice them in half and then small slices.  I used a plastic measuring pitcher set on a food scale to gauge how many pounds of peaches I had to make the pie filling, so I could determine how many of the other ingredients I’d need to scale.

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The aroma from those ripe peaches was heavenly.  The girls begged to save the seeds to plant peach trees…and here we have plenty of space for those trees, so that’s what we did!

After slicing the peaches and before putting them into the drink dispenser, I dipped the juicy peaches into a large bowl that held: not quite a gallon of water + 2 tablespoons white vinegar + 2 tablespoons sea salt.  This helps the peaches stay bright and beautiful and lock in their color.

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We placed all the peaches in a large, glass drink dispenser I’d gotten at Costco.  I do have large stainless steel bowls, but you can’t use those with the lemon juice so I had to get creative.  This  picture is before I’d sliced the peaches into smaller, pie-friendly slices.

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Meanwhile, in an 8 quart stock pot on the stove I added the water, sugar, lemon  juice and spices and brought that up to a boil, then turned off the heat to let it cool off.  Once the syrup was cooled down, I was ready to add it to the peaches.

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I let the peaches sit in the pie filling syrup to let the flavors combine for about an hour.  By this time, the whole mixture was cool enough for me to easily store in FoodSaver bags.  Since I couldn’t find my canning supplies, I realized saving it in FoodSaver bags was just as good since it’ll last a year in our freezer (well, I doubt these pie fillings will make it a whole year without being eaten!). 

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Here’s what the looked like after I’d stored them, each bag held one measured quart of peach pie filling (and about the perfect amount to fill a pie shell with).  This quantity yielded me 9 bags of peach pie fillings, to make 9 pies!

Although, I did end up with all this extra syrup! What to do?  I stored the leftover pie filling liquid in my fridge for a few days, and realized there was quite a bit of  solid peach material in it that separated and floated to the top.  I decided to filter out all the solid material through a fine sieve, and use the residual clear, liquid syrup for pancakes!  Yes, it’s a HUGE hit (especially considering we NEVER have sugar in this house…a rare treat).

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Luscious, homemade peach syrup straight from the orchard!  You really cannot replicate this flavor anywhere.

Now, back to those peach pits…fortunately Nana Margo was on hand to help research.  We watched several YouTube videos on how to grow a peach tree from seed, and took our peach seeds outside and just went for it!

First we counted our seeds: we had 22 perfect peach pits saved (lots were broken, and we’d thrown plenty into the mulch pile already before the planting inspiration hit).  We assembled our ingredients, most of which were free:

Pots to plant in (recycled old plastic pots on hand)

Rocks for the bottom to create proper drainage (ugly old landscaping recycled to help a tree grow!)

Organic potting soil to plant in (this we bought at Costco, $10 for 50# bag)

And of course our plate of peach pits!

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We placed a few inches of smaller sized rocks in each pot to facilitate drainage. Bonus: I’ve begun getting rid of the ugly landscaping rocks right outside our back door!

Next we placed a good 3-4″ of organic potting soil over the rocks in each pot.

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Then we placed each peach pit in the center of that beautiful soil, and covered it up with another 3″ of potting soil.

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Lastly, we watered the peach plants and are just making sure the soil stays damp each day (and of course I have lots of help).  We’ll keep you posted on how our little peach trees turn out!

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