Peaches in Vanilla Brandy || Hitchhiking to Heaven

Peaches in Vanilla Brandy

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.


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  • Reply Anonymous September 7, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Those of us here in Fairbanks have no use for this recipe, you know!

  • Reply Ewok September 7, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    You're doing a great job, Spike!

    Can you make these without the sugar, or will they not be so tasty?

  • Reply astheroshe September 7, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    you do not have to water bath them?..sorry..newbie here :)

  • Reply Lynn September 8, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Looks yummy :)

  • Reply Anonymous September 10, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    I don't think you need to water bath them because the alcohol in the brandy keeps the peaches from going bad.

  • Reply Ann Nichols September 14, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Gotta love Spike! Those eyes!!!

  • Reply Shae | Hitchhiking to Heaven September 15, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    Well, folks, to answer astheroshe's question, I did a little more research. It turns out that, although it's common to preserve peaches in brandy without water-bath canning, at least one expert preserver, Eugenia Bone, says it's not safe. And one expert is enough for me.

    Here's what she said in a New York Times article last year:

    In decades past, The New York Times ran many recipes for brandied peaches. The main problem with them, Bone pointed out, is that they were better recipes for botulism than for peaches. The peaches were packed between layers of sugar in jars, topped with brandy and sealed. Peaches have a lot of air in them, which helps to promote bacterial growth, and sugar is only a moderate preservative. . . . To make them safe, you need to process them — place the closed jars in a pot, cover with water and boil them for 20 minutes.

    So there you have it. If you want to get in line with the USDA (and I certainly do), boil those jars. I apologize for the confusion.

  • Reply Shae | Hitchhiking to Heaven September 15, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Ewok: Spike says thanks, especially now that I messed up his game a little bit. I think this recipe without sugar would be, as you suggest, not as tasty. Also, with this bit of confusion about safety, I have to say leave the sugar in there for its mild preservative effect.

  • Reply Doris the Goat September 15, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    Well, yes, you should water-bath them, but don't freak out too much. Remember, botulism can't grow in acidic environments, and peaches are plenty acidic. You might get all sorts of other nasties, like yeasts, mold, and non-botulism bacteria, but not botulism. This is a pretty standard way to make infused alcohols, actually, but in most cases you don't seal the jar. Sometimes you even *want* fermentation, if you're trying to make the alcohol really fruity. But if you're trying to make drunken fruit, rather than fruit-y alcohol, yes, you should water-bath them.

    And on a separate note: Maybe dilute the alcohol? I made some pears in pure brandy last year and they were, um, potent. Can't say I didn't warn you.

  • Reply Shae | Hitchhiking to Heaven September 15, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    Doris Goat: The warning seemed to focus on the air in the peaches. I make (and drink) plenty of blackberry liqueur, which is just berries, booze, water, and sugar in unsealed jars — as you describe — and I'm still here and happy! I'm not going to change how I do that.

    About dilution, you should taste our friend Julia's drunken apricots. They will set your hair on fire. I rather like them.

  • Reply SarahBHood September 15, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    I'm not sure these would last long enough around my house to worry about bacterial growth.

  • Reply Shae | Hitchhiking to Heaven September 15, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    Sarah: Now that cuts right to the truth of the matter. Love ya.

  • Reply tigress September 16, 2010 at 3:25 am

    mmmm…those apricots. they were lovely. i'm with sarah and the goat. acid (& air for that matter) will stop the bad B boy. this is probably going to sound blasphemous coming from me, but at some point i think we may all be getting a little hot water bath happy here in the us. :)

    i would eat those peaches with my paws straight from the unprocessed jar – just watch me!

  • Reply Denise | Chez Danisse September 19, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    I'm so with you, Spike. I do find it rather annoying when a cookbook photo does not match the recipe it seems positioned to describe. I prefer it when form follows function.

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