Editor’s Note, added September 15, 2010: While this technique came straight from a published preserving book, and you can find similar methods in many obvious places (even the New York Times used to say this was the way to do it), there’s a chance that it is unsafe. (See the comments at the end of the post to learn more about why.) To ensure safety, you’ll need to use a water-bath canner. Put the filled and sealed jars into a large pot, cover them with water (submerging them by at least 2 inches), bring the water to a boil and boil gently for 10 minutes.
I briefly considered pulling this post entirely, but sometimes it’s helpful to highlight a controversy — and a potential mistake. Just to be clear, it wasn’t Spike’s fault. He was just doing what I asked. Now you can bet I’m going to give him the book I used and let him chew it to pieces, which is what he wanted to do in the first place.
Shae will be in Alaska for one more week and, if you remember, she asked me — Spike the Porcupine — to take care of her blog while she’s gone. Today, she wants me to show you how to preserve peaches in vanilla brandy. It’s so easy that any rodent of above-average intelligence, like me, could do it. Though I don’t know why I’d want to. Porcupines like salt, not booze. But she asked, so, whatever . . . it’s my job.
I had to make a few changes to the directions she left me. They came from a book with a recipe that’s just, well, dumb. First, the book tells you to put 3 or 4 peaches and just a little bit of brandy into a half-gallon jar. Why would anyone do that? Even I can tell the jar would be way too big, and I’m just a porcupine.
Then, there’s the picture in the book. It’s supposed to be peeled and quartered peaches, but I bet even a field mouse could see that it’s a pretty picture of plump nectarines with their skins still on, getting cozy in what is not a half-gallon jar. They’re messing with my prickly head. It’s a good thing the book isn’t a new or popular one. I wish she’d put some salt on it and just let me chew it up, but I know she won’t. She likes to keep old books around because they have good ideas.
Oh, well. It didn’t take much to fix up this recipe, and I know she’ll want you to have this rich, peachy brandy come January. Round about that time I’ll be hunkered down in my den, dreaming of a summery spruce bark feast.
Peaches in Vanilla Brandy
2 one-quart mason jars
8 ripe peaches, peeled and quartered
1 cup superfine sugar
1 bottle (750 ml) brandy
1 vanilla bean
1. Blanch the peaches by dunking them in boiling water for 2 minutes, then refresh them in an ice-water bath. (You might want to do like Shae’s friend Julia and use an ice pack instead of ice for the cold water bath. Easy, right?) Drain and peel the peaches.
2. Cut the peaches into quarters and toss out the pits.
3. Pack the jars with peaches, alternating the fruit with layers of sugar. (You want that superfine sugar because it dissolves more easily than the regular stuff.)
4. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and push one half into each jar.
5. Fill the jars with brandy, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Seal the jars, and shake them gently to dissolve the sugar. [Please note the correction above and boil the jars for 10 minutes in a water-bath canner.]
6. Store the jars in a cool, dark place for about 3 months. When the brandy and peaches are ready, you can serve the brandy straight from the jar or strain it first.
And there’s one last thing. Don’t call me a thorny pig. People, please. You gotta stop that.