August 28, 2014

Preserving Peaches with Food In Jars' Marisa McClellan

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of hosting Marisa McClellan, author of two preserving cookbooks and blogger at Food In Jars, at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Falmouth. We were all particularly excited to be a stop on Marisa's book tour, since we teach food preservation here and have a big group of volunteers trained to do so as well (Master Food Preservers). I was excited to meet Marisa and then sit in the audience and relax while someone else demonstrated food preservation and fielded questions about jamming and pickling. 

Marisa demonstrated two recipes from her new book, Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces. These are small-batch recipes, usually yielding one to two pints, and can be completed in an hour or so. Marisa was particularly entertaining as she demonstrated these recipes, quickly putting nervous new canners at ease with her light-hearted approach to the process. After a two-hour demonstration, no one was scared of canning anymore, and we were all inspired by Marisa's delicious recipes. 

Specifically, Marisa demonstrated making a peach Sriracha jam, which we sampled alongside Cabot's clothbound cheddar cheese. It was a perfect balance of sweet and spicy, with about 1/4 cup of Sriracha added to about 2 lbs. of mashed peaches. Other than the traditional uses for jam, Marisa loves this spread on turkey burgers and roasted sweet potatoes. 

Peach Jam with Sriracha
from Preserving by the Pint

1 quart (about 2 lbs.) peaches
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup Sriracha hot sauce
juice of 1/2 lemon

Wash and quarter peaches. Remove pit. Drop quarters into boiling water for 30-60 seconds, then move to a bowl of ice water. Let cool and remove skins. Place peeled peaches in a large skillet and mash with a potato masher. Add sugar and let stand for a few minutes. 

Add lemon juice and heat fruit mixture over medium-high heat. Bring fruit to a boil and stir frequently, until fruit is reduced and thick, about 10 to 12 minutes. Look for jam to thicken so that when you pull a spatula through the jam, the mixture doesn't fill in the space you created immediately. Stir in Sriracha and remove from heat. 

Ladle into hot half-pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes or place in the fridge to enjoy within 2 weeks. 

Makes about 3 half-pint jars

As a hostess perk, I was left with a pint of this peach jam, so when I turned to preserving my own peaches, I went no-frills. I canned peach slices in a light syrup, thinking I can make jam, chutney, sauce and pie (or more likely just eat them straight from the jar) later. 

I ordered a case of peaches from Maple Springs Farm in Harrison (a vendor at the Portland Farmers' Market) a few weeks ago. Farmer Mark of the Peaches drives down to Connecticut, loads up the truck, and sells cases (about 26 lbs.) for $50. I got my own case two years ago, but that was a fairly traumatic experience (see the never-ending peach processing). 

So this year, I split both the case and the processing with Vrylena. We canned the peaches in one evening, but it still took about 6 hours. We ended up with 9 pints and 10 quarts of peaches, plus a pile of quartered peaches that were too stubborn to peel, that will end up in a raspberry peach pie.

Peach Slices in Light Syrup

For the light syrup: 
10-1/2 cups water
1-1/4 cups white sugar

Combine water and sugar in a large stock pot, bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve sugar, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer while packing your jars.

For the peaches: 
Wash and quarter peaches. Remove pit. Drop quarters into boiling water for 30-60 seconds, then move to a bowl of ice water. Let cool and remove skins. Slice quarters in half again, if desired. 

Pack peach slices into hot quarts or pints, cut side down. Ladle hot syrup over peaches, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove bubbles, adjust headspace if needed. Wipe jar rims and apply lids and screw bands. Process in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes for pints, 30 minutes for quarts. 

Yield: 17-1/2 lbs. needed for a canner load of 7 quarts, 11 lbs. needed for a canner load of 9 pints

Lastly, in self-interested news, the Maine Sunday Telegram is looking for a restaurant reviewer. Their interim critic, Melissa Coleman's stint is up at the end of the summer (I guess that's now? *sniff*), so the hunt is on to fill her spot. With so many great restaurants in Maine, I'd love to see our state's largest paper have a serious food writer/restaurant critic. See the job description below, and forward it onto anyone you think would be a good fit. 

The Maine Sunday Telegram is looking for a freelance restaurant critic to write our weekly Dine Out Maine reviews. Is that you?

You need to know about food, dining and restaurants. You need a sophisticated palate. (Do you also know wine? Even better.) Just as important, you can tell a good story. Your reviews will critique a restaurant’s food and service, of course, but in the process will tell an engaging story. We are looking for reviews that have beginnings and endings, themes and ideas, and a strong point of view. You also can describe food in interesting, evocative ways, and you must be able to explain clearly why a dish was outstanding or disappointing. (“It was delicious” is not a critique.)

Beyond these, you must meet deadlines, write accurately and fairly, and be familiar with the restaurant scene in greater Portland and Maine. We won’t be assigning which restaurant to review each week – we expect you to keep track of openings and new chefs and to propose restaurants yourself. We also expect you to dine anonymously. You will be paid as a freelancer, per review. As a restaurant critic, you cannot attend industry events and meet and befriend chefs -- this job requires that you remain an outsider. Finally, you will need a thick skin. Reviewing restaurants inspires passions, especially in a town like Portland, so you should expect strong responses from readers who disagree with you -- and, when necessary, be willing to defend your opinions.

Email writing samples and a resume to Food Editor Peggy Grodinsky at Finalists will be expected to write a sample restaurant review.