Small Batch Sweet Cherry and Peach Preserves + Canning Instructions

I just got back from spending a week with my family, but it wasn't until we were half way back to Missouri that I realized that I had screwed up. I didn't stop by my favorite produce stand to pick up my summer supply of peaches. That meant going an entire year without any because, while Wisconsin produces a lot of great things, peaches just aren't one of them. Those hard as a rock things they sell in the grocery store (you know the ones I'm talking about, don't you?) The ones that never seem to soften up and don't even smell like peaches. Those are not peaches, at least, not the kind I grew up with.

Real peaches are the ones so filled up with juice they burst the second your teeth pierce the flesh, leaving you with a trail of juice running down your chin. Those are the peaches I grew up with, but sadly those are not the peaches I find these days. They seem to be a thing of the past.

I've always felt that it's not officially summer until I've had my first peach, so I spent the drive back to Wisconsin completely dejected. Summer was officially over before it ever really got started. There would be no peach pies, crisps, or cobblers in my future. No jellies, butters, or preserves to get me through the long cold Wisconsin winter.

Summer was dead to me.

Well, at least until I went to the grocery store hungry (something I keep telling myself I shouldn't do, but at least it worked in my favor this time.) I was wandering through the produce section looking for dinner ingredients when I stumbled across case on top of case of canning peaches. I'm ashamed now to admit I walked right on by them (didn't I mention the fact that we don't get good peaches in Wisconsin?)

Then it hit me— I smelled peaches!

I immediately turned the cart around (practically gunning down little old ladies right and left in my effort to get there fast enough) and I picked up a case of some of the best smelling peaching I've seen in years. Then three days later I went back for more, because lets be honest, you can never have too many peaches.

I'm going to give you fair warning, you're about to be inundated with peach recipes, starting with these glorious sweet cherry and peach preserves that I saw on Food in Jars

Sweet Cherry and Peach Preserves

Sweet Cherry and Peach Preserves
makes 3 half pints

Ingredients

1½ pounds yellow peaches
¾ pounds sweet cherries (see notes)
1¼ cups granulated white sugar 

Directions

  • Bring a sauce pan of water to a boil. Working in small batches, blanch the peaches for 30 seconds, before transferring them to an ice bath. Once the peaches have cooled slightly the skins should easily peel off.
  • Remove the pits from the cherries. You can pull them apart with your hands, or use a chopstick to help force the pit out.
  • In a non-reactive sauce pan add sugar, peaches, and cherries. Stir well to combine, then bring the contents to a boil over high heat.

Make sure to stir the pot frequently taking care to scrape the bottom, especially during the later portion of the cooking process where the fruit tends to burn more easily.

  • While the fruit is cooking sterilize your jars and other canning supplies. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
  • Allow the fruit to reduce by roughly ⅓ (this took about 30 minutes, but could take longer.) Turn the heat off once the sauce has thickened.
  • Fill sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace at the top. Carefully wipe the rims, add lid and ring, then process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Once the timer goes off, leave the jars in the water for an additional 5 minutes to help prevent the preserves from siphoning.
  • Carefully remove jars and set on a dishtowel. Never set hot jars directly on the counter, the rapid temperature change can cause them to break.
  • Allow the jars to cool completely before testing the seal. Any unsealed jars should be reprocessed or refrigerated immediately.

Notes

When selecting peaches for canning I prefer the freestone variety because the flesh of the peach doesn't cling to the pit. They're a lot less work, which really makes a difference if you plan on processing a ton of peaches. For small batches, such as this recipe, clingstone peaches will work just fine.

I used sweet cherries because it's what I had on hand (thanks to my husband's grandma who gave me a huge bag while we were on vacation,) but sour cherries will work just as well.

Give this recipe your own twist! Try adding a vanilla bean, ground cardamom, ginger, or galangal.

Apple Cider Syrup #Unprocessed

Since our trip to the pumpkin patch earlier in the month I've had apple cider doughnuts on my mind. Even if they are made from scratch, they aren't considered unprocessed so I wondered if I could make a less processed version at home. I've been in recipe development mode all week trying to get the right balance of flavors, but while the doughnuts taste good, they aren't great — yet. I'm ready for a short break from this project so I thought I would put the recipe on the back burner for now and move on, but I didn't want to leave you without a recipe of some sort.

It just so happens that another recipe came out of all of my kitchen experiments and it happens to be an unprocessed sweetener. Apple cider syrup isn't something I was familiar with, but I stumbled across it on the King Arthur Flour website and thought, hey I bet I could make that. It's really quite simple, you take a half gallon of unsweetened apple cider and boil it down until it thickens. The resulting syrup is incredibly sweet and can be used as a topping for pancakes or an addition to baked goods to give them more apple flavor. It's quite versatile and has the added benefit of making your entire house smell like autumn.

Apple Cider Syrup
makes approximately 8 ounces or a half-pint

Ingredients

½ gallon fresh apple cider *see notes

Directions

  • In a large pot bring the apple cider to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-high. Continue to simmer the cider for approximately 2 hours or until it has reduced in half. 
  • If you accidentally cook your cider down more than you had intended you can save it, just add a small amount of apple cider back into the syrup, stir until well combined and cook down more if necessary.
  • This recipe can be stored in the refrigerator for several months or canned using a water-bath. Pint, half-pint, and quarter-pint jars will be processed for 15 minutes. For complete canning instructions you can visit my Crock-Pot Applesauce recipe the process is identical.

Notes

If you're looking to use this as a natural sweetener you'll want to use an apple cider that doesn't contain preservatives or other added ingredients. Many of the varieties sold in the store contain Potassium Sorbate or Sodium Benzoate, which is used as a preservative. I purchased a gallon of cider from one of our local farms that is unfiltered, unsweetened, and has no preservatives.

Russian Dressing

Several years ago during one of my many road trips, I stopped off at a deli for a Reuben and was completely blown away by the flavor packed into my sandwich. It was the best Reuben I'd ever had, miles ahead of anything that had previously crossed my lips and I've eaten a fair amount of Reubens in my time. It was a slow day in the shop so I spend a good 20 minutes talking with the owner trying to pin down what was so different about this particular sandwich. He proudly told me that what made his sandwich the best was the fact that everything was made from scratch in house except for the cheese which was locally made by a family friend. He went into great detail about the process of curing the corned beef, fermenting the sauerkraut, and how easy it was to make the dressing from scratch. During our talk you could tell that he enjoyed his craft and took enjoyment from the looks of ecstasy that crossed his customer's faces as they took their first bite.

From our conversation I took away several things, first of all I wanted to try to make my own corned beef some day and second, I was going to stop buying commercially prepared salad dressing. Before that conversation I never stopped to think about how easy it would be to make my own, I just picked up a bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch whenever it was on sale and never gave it a second though. I'm pretty sure my love of convenience foods came to an end in the weeks following this conversation, as I realized what I had been missing out on. One of the first dressings I decided to tackle was Russian dressing, since as you can tell, I love a good Reuben and often make them at home. Not only is this dressing great on a Reuben, it's perfect on top of an ordinary salad to make it a little more interesting and it's a necessity for the Reuben salad recipe that I will be posting soon as part of our what to do with the leftover series.

RussianDressing.jpg

Ingredients

1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup ketchup
1 teaspoon onion, minced
1 teaspoon horseradish
1 teaspoon dill pickle, minced
¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons parsley, dried
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper 

Directions

  • In a bowl combine mayonnaise, ketchup, minced onion, horseradish, minced dill pickle, Worcestershire sauce, dried parsley, paprika, and black pepper. Mix well and refrigerate at least two hours before serving to allow the flavors to combine.

Recipe Inspiration

Adapted from a Russian Dressing recipe from food.com

Buttermilk Ranch Salad Dressing

Growing up ranch dressing was always my condiment of choice for salads and veggies. When the holidays would roll around my grandmother would make sure to have a bottle of Kraft buttermilk ranch dressing on the table, knowing my brother and I both loved it. It remained one of my favorite salad dressings well into adulthood, although sometimes I would switch it up a bit and grab a bottle of Hidden Valley ranch. 

Several years ago, in an effort to cut down on the amount of preservatives in my diet, I decided to start making my own salad dressings. Honestly, I'm not sure why it took me so long to realize I could be making much better tasting dressings at home, but now that I have I don't bother with the store bought stuff unless a guest requests it. I've never bothered to write the recipe down before because each time I make it it is a little bit different, but here is where I'm at today. This is a great starting point, but make sure you experiment, the possibilities are endless with this recipe.

ButtermilkRanchDressing.jpg

Buttermilk Ranch Salad Dressing
makes 2 cups

Ingredients:

1 cup buttermilk
1 cup mayonnaise
½ teaspoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon dried minced onion
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon parsley 
teaspoon smoked paprika
teaspoon thyme
teaspoon basil
1 pinch cayenne pepper

Directions:

  • Combine ingredients and mix until well incorporated.

Make this at least a day in advance so the flavors have time to meld. It will keep for at least 5 days when kept properly refrigerated.