I love peaches. I love them so much I bought a half-bushel at the farmers market on Saturday... and went back to buy another half-bushel Sunday. That's 50 pounds of peaches, sprawled around my dining room.
Really, they aren't sprawled. They are nestled inside peach crates from 2 years ago, when I bought my peaches by the 4lb box at Trader Joes. While my love affair with TJ continues, I now restrict my peach purchases to the farmers market. In bulk.
Inquiring minds want to know what one does with 50lbs of peaches, right? Here goes, along with hints for efficiency.
Did I mention that I have a new job that I love that has me traveling and busy? Not as much time for cooking as there once was. Efficiency is the key!
First things first-- while the peaches are beautiful and begging to be cooked/cut/preserved/frozen, do not yield to immediate temptation. My peaches, as I brought them home from the market were lovely, but had not reached perfection. Plan on the fruit aging for a few days in your home until the perfume overtakes you. In practice, this also allows you to work with 5-10lbs/day, making the task more manageable.
Lay the peaches out on cookies sheets or in shoe boxes in a single (or at most double) layer. Check them at least daily, removing those that are ripe and ready. Bring those to the kitchen, wash and proceed as below:
Freezing peach slices: Slice into 10-12 long slices, then place on a cookie sheet. When slicing, try cutting across the peach (not down the peach crack). If the pit is going to split, this method gives you a chance to get it out in one piece, which reduces the odds of having hard peach pits in your final product.
In my freezer, they are solid in 3 hours. Move to a bag or freezer-safe container, and freeze. With this method, the slices remain separate for smoothies, frozen yogurt/ice cream and baked goodies. I use no preservative or acid to maintain color... I've never had a problem with them not being perfect eight months later.
Peach Jam: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Prepare a bowl of ice water. Each must be deep enough to hold your largest ripe peach. Cut an X in the non-stem end of the peach, then drop into boiling water (I do 4 at a time in boiling water). After 30 seconds, remove peach and slip off skin. Place naked peach into a bowl.
Here's the cool part... When you have 12 naked peaches in the bowl, crush them with your bare (clean) hands. Remove pits as you go. The benefit of crushing the peaches in your hand instead of dicing them on a cutting board is that you are able to capture all the peach juice. And (bonus!) it doesn't end up all over your table/counter/floor/cat, saving you from the sticky, sugary mess.
Proceed with your peach jam recipe. 12 peaches makes about 8 cups of peach smush, which is enough for 2 batches of most jams. Your results will vary based on the size of your peaches. Duh.
For future jam, freeze the crushed peaches in containers in useful sizes... I add 1/4 cup bottled lemon juice to every 4 cups of peaches, to ensure color. Most finished recipes call for lemon juice anyway. I use freezer bags and mason jars.
Peach Puree: Using above technique, take smushed peaches and treat them to a whirl in the blender. I add lemon juice as above, and freeze in 2 cups batches for future mixed drinks and ice cream. Bellinis, anyone?
Lots of other things to do with the fresh peaches. Grilled peaches (slice in half, remove pit, brish with butter and grill face down over low heat) are awesome. I saw a recipe for broiled peaches-- same as above, but in the oven. Peach salsa is on my list this year- I'll process the peaches like peach jam, then follow the directions (maybe).