Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sarabeth's Strawberry-Peach Preserves

While living in New York City and interning at the Food Network, I had the luxury of stopping by the Chelsea Market location of Sarabeth's Bakery many mornings. I looked forward to the delicious baked goods and preserves on each occasion. When Sarabeth's cookbook was being released, I had the pleasure of receiving an advance copy. I waxed poetic about my love for the book and the bakery in my review of the cookbook. I even got to meet Sarabeth and tell her in person how much I enjoyed exploring her lovely book. And then I recently realized that I hadn't shared another recipe from her book since that post almost two years ago! Shame on me.

Lucky for me (and you) I elected to make some of her famous fruit preserves with the surplus of fresh fruit this summer. First on my list was the strawberry-peach preserves, a beautiful and vibrant creation that is heavy on strawberry flavor with a nice balance of peaches as well. The color is lovely, more blush than traditional strawberry preserves, and requires a bit more effort due to the peeling and chopping of peaches, but I assure you, it was pretty easy.

I am not a master of canning whatsoever, and found her directions to be very straight-forward (as are all the instructions in her book). I slightly under-cooked my preserves, so the surrounding syrup was a bit less gelled than it could have been, but quite honestly we still thought the result was fantastic! I will definitely make this recipe again! I'm also looking forward to trying some of the other preserve recipes in her book. I think next on my list is her blueberry jam.

For the occasion, I purchased a Ball Utensil Set for Preserving very cheaply (less than $7) from Walmart. It was quite possibly the best $7 I've spent (this month, at least). It alleviated some of the stress I had about hot-packing the jars (something totally new to me). The set included a sturdy set of canning tongs (way more reliable than attempting to do the same with regular tongs), a wide funnel that made for a less messy experience, a bubble remover/headspace tool (use the same tool for measuring headspace on the jars and then removing bubbles from the jar instead of using a dinner knife), and a magnetic lid lifter (perfect for removing the hot metal lids from the pan of hot water). I thought it was a great deal and I know I will use this again and again whenever I make preserves (and now that I have this kit and the jars, I know I'll be making a lot more).

Strawberry-Peach Preserves
Makes 10 half-pints
(From Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours)

4 lbs ripe peaches
7 cups granulated sugar, divided
8 cups fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and quartered lengthwise
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. In batches, add the peaches to the water and boil until the skins loosen, 30 to 60 seconds. Using a large skimmer or a slotted spoon, transfer the peaches to a large bowl filled with an ice bath. Peel and pit the peaches, and cut into 1-inch pieces.

Mix the peaches with 3 1/2 cups of the sugar in a nonreactive large saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the peaches soften and release their juices, and the sugar dissolves, 5 to 10 minutes.

Stir in the strawberries, the remaining 3 1/2 cups sugar, and the lemon juice. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a steady simmer. Cooking, skimming and stirring often, until the liquid is thick and syrupy and the peaches are soft and chunky, about 40 minutes.

While the fruit is cooking, sterilize the jars. Fill a canning pot (or other large deep pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat (allow about 30 minutes or more for this procedure, as you are using a large quantity of water). Bring a kettle of water to a boil just in case you need to add more water to the canning pot. Wash the jars, lids, and bands in hot soapy water, and rinse well. Dry the bands. If you wish, use a dishwasher. Jars that are piping hot and fresh out of the dishwasher don't need sterilizing in a hot-water bath. Do not put the lids in the dishwasher.

Use canning tongs to immerse the jars in the boiling water. Add boiling water if needed to cover the jars by 1 inch. Place the lids in a saucepan and cover with hot tap water and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat and let sit in the hot water until ready to use. The hot water softens the seal on the lip of the lid, creating a tighter seal.

Using the canning tongs, carefully remove the jars from the water. Invert the jars to remove any water and place right side up on a clean kitchen towel to drain. Spoon the hot fruit into the jars, leaving a 1/4-inch gap from the top (a canning funnel is very useful). Wipe any spills from the edge of the jar with a hot, wet towel. Using a dinner knife, adjust the fruit in the jar to allow any air pockets to escape. Attach the hot, wet lids and bands, but do not screw on tightly--just twist the bands until you feel resistance.

Place the jars in a canning rack and lower into the water in the pot (if you don't have a canning rack, place a kitchen towel in the bottom of the pot of boiling water and use the canning tongs to lower each jar into the water--the towel will prevent the jars from knocking around on the bottom of the pot while the water is boiling). If necessary, add enough boiling water to cover the jars by 1 inch. Return to a boil and process for 10 minutes at a slow boil.

Place a clean, thick kitchen towel on the work surface. Remove the rack with the jars from the pot (or use the tongs to remove each jar individually), and transfer the jars to the towel and let cool completely, undisturbed, for at least 12 hours. You will know when the jars are properly sealed if the lids are slightly concave in the centers, and when the lids are pressed in the centers they should not make a clicking sound. In necessary, re-process or refrigerate them and serve within four weeks. Before storing, give the rings another turn to be sure they are tight. Hot-packed jars can be stored at room temperature for about one year. Once they are open, be sure to refrigerate them. When serving, never place unclean spoons or butter knives back into the jar. This will create bacteria and your preserves will spoil.


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