Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bourbon Pickled Peaches

Oh, yeah, you know you read that title and thought "Ooooohhhhh that sounds REALLY good." And they are...they on....This recipe is much more than just peaches floating in bourbon. Oh, no, this is actually a glorified pickled peach recipe, and glory it is. The brine is truly a gorgeous color, and smells divine.
I don't think I have every done anything so messy or sticky as peeling, cutting, and then pitting peaches. What a mess. I was hoping to get them halved fairly easily while maintaining their form but, no, they were not cooperating so I went from pretty, unblemished whole peaches (above) to messy, dented ratty peach halves (below).

In the long run, though, it doesn't matter, because they will soften up and get poached in the brine anyway:
And the finished product, looking just gorgeous in these Ball Elite pint jars despite their ratty appearance earlier:

And the recipe, which comes from the files of the Melting_Pot, the sister Yahoo! group of the Home_Canning group, to which I belong. I highly recommend joining if only for the recipes.

Bourbon-Preserved Peaches

These sweet-tart fruits are a spiked cousin of Southern pickled peaches. They are traditionally served alongside roast meats, but their slightly sour note and thick syrup means they are heavenly with vanilla ice cream. The same preparation can be applied using apricots and brandy, and Amaretto also works nicely. If you abstain from alcohol, omit it and increase the vinegar to 2 cups.

6 lbs small, firm peaches
2 lbs (4 cups) sugar
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 cup bourbon, divided use
4 cinnamon sticks
1 pinch cloves
1 tablespoon chopped crystallized ginger
4 wide-mouth quart canning jars

1. Before you begin, assess the size of your peaches to see how many you'll want to cut in half to fit snuggly into the jars. Set a very large pot of water to boil.
Sanitize the jars by immersing them and their lids in the boiling water for a minute, remove with tongs and set aside. Leave the water boiling, and prepare a bowl full of ice water.

2. Blanch the peaches. Submerge a few peaches in the boiling water, let boil for 1-2 minutes, then immediately transfer the peaches to the ice water. Let the peaches sit in the ice water for a minute, then remove and immediately peel the skin from the peaches and place in a clean bowl. Repeat until all the peaches are peeled. Working over the bowl to catch any juices, halve and pit as many peaches as necessary (I usually halve about half the peaches).

3. Drain the pot, rinse it, and return it to the stove. Combine sugar, vinegar, 1/2 cup of bourbon, 1 cinnamon stick broken in half, the cloves and ginger. Add any juice from the bowl of peaches. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Turn the heat down and let the syrup simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until the syrup is concentrated and slightly thickened (the syrup will be slightly golden, but it should not darken in color).

4. Add about one third of the peaches to syrup, raise the heat slightly, and poach for about six minutes, turning peaches to coat. (It will seem like you don't have enough syrup, don't worry). Transfer peaches to a jar, packing the whole peaches with the peach halves as closely as possible. Continue poaching the peaches and filling the jars in two more batches. (I usually end up with three full jars plus a half jar, depending on the size of the peaches). Turn the heat off the syrup, let cool slightly, and then stir in the remaining 1/2 cup bourbon. Carefully ladle the syrup into the jars, filling to within 1/2 inch of the rim. Insert a cinnamon stick into each jar. Run a knife or small spatula on the inside of the jars to release any air bubbles, wipe the rims of the jars clean. Place the lids on the jar and screw on caps so that they are finger-tight.

5. If you are canning the jars, prepare a large batch of boiling water again. Submerge the closed jars in the boiling water for 15 minutes. Remove with tongs or rubber mitts, set aside the jars to cool to room temperature. If you don't want to process the jars, the peaches will keep for four weeks in the refrigerator.