Thursday, May 31, 2007

Memorial Day: Homemade Preserves

What could be more all-American than making homemade fruit preserves on Memorial Day? Here at orenji catering we imagine that in between sewing the stripes on the American flag, Betsy Ross spent a great deal of time canning and preserving fruits and vegetables... so why shouldn't we? Of course, we took a traditional recipe, and "updated" it with some of our favorite flavors!

On our recent trip to Peru and Bolivia, we had the pleasure of eating many breakfasts of locally baked breads and rolls, laden with delicious local butters and preserves. Our favorite were the peach preserves, and since our return home, we have been searching for the perfect jar. But, alas, if you want something done right, sometimes you have to do it yourself! And that's what we set out to do... and we're going to tell you how we did it.

But first, a quick definition: Preserves are considered by most to be fresh fruit cooked with sugar and pectin (a fruit derivative that aids in thickening). Preserves differ from jams and jellies in the fact that the chunks of fruit are moderate to large in size, as opposed to the consistency of thick puree or clear gelatin.
To make our preserves, we started with some beautiful locally grown peaches, purchased at our farmer's market.

And then we decided to balance the sweetness of the peaches with some other favorite flavors-- infusions of Indonesian vanilla beans, sweet lemons, and Hawaiian lavender.

The sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and lavender steeped for a while before we strained it and added our thickly sliced peaches. The syrup was heavy with vanilla and lavender scent, and the test kitchen smelled delicious! After a brief time, we removed the peaches, dividing them amongst our European glass jars that seal with rubber rings and clips, rather than screw tops. The clips allow steam from inside the jar to escape, while preventing moisture during the canning process to enter inside.

After the syrup reached the appropriate temperature, it was divided among the jars and they were sealed, processed in a water bath to sterilize them, and removed to cool.

After a day of rest in the refrigerator (the preserves, not us!), we enjoyed our creation with some crusty whole wheat bread and creamy neufchatel cheese, alongside some freshly ground French press Over the Rhine Blend (see December 2006 posts for ordering information) coffee.

They turned out a beautiful peach-orange color, with vanilla beans and lavender seed dotting the surface! And as much as we enjoy eating our fresh peach, vanilla, and lavender preserves, they will make a perfect gift for our friends!

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