to go for the first or for the last

Last week I found myself in my kitchen making a tomato sauce with four ingredients. Like so many others, I read about Marcella Hanzan's death and then opened a can of tomatoes, cut an onion in half, and threw the two into a pot with an indulgent amount of butter (and some people still spread the lie that Italians don't use butter . . .), added some salt and then called it dinner. This simple tomato sauce takes up a fair chunk of the legacy that she leaves behind. It is simplicity at its finest, which means that the whole is much, much more than the sum of its parts.

Well tonight I'm at it again. Because this sauce is so easy and basically makes itself (no chopping, barely any stirring, the most effort involved is occasionally poking at a collapsing tomato with a wooden spoon), I started to clean up the mess of post-it notes and grocery lists and receipts next to where I keep my cookbooks. Somewhere next to my grocery list from last week and a list of things I want to make this week, I found a recipe for Peach Ketchup. It was just the reminder I needed. I certainly did not forget about this peach ketchup. It is just that sometimes it takes me a while to get around to sharing a recipe, but I'm getting to it before its too late. And not only did I find that recipe - I also found a crumpled piece of paper that reminded me to tell you about the perfect peach jam. So here is to the last of the peaches. And here is to both savoury and sweet. Peach Ketchup and Perfect Peach Jam.

My local market makes it obvious what season it is, but no matter how orange the pumpkins are, I'm not budging. Not yet at least. As much as I'm tempted to bake them into pie and roast them into gratins (the former which I will inevitably do for Canadian Thanksgiving, I'm sure), I'm staying strong. This is because I know that it will be a long winter. And last winter was painfully long, so long that by the end of it I could no longer look at beets, and I love beets. It was just that the sight of a root vegetable made me want to scream. I know that I will eat my share of pumpkins this winter, which is why I'm holding onto summer produce a little bit longer. 

It is definitely the very, very end of peach season. There are still a good supply hanging out at my local markets, but I know that their days are numbered, which is why I think this is really the best time to get canning. When peaches first showed up in the summer, the temperatures were in the 30s. I was too busy drinking Bellini and making peach salads to even consider making them into jam. Canning is all above preserving the flavours of one season to eat in another. So when is the best time to make peach jam? At the start of the peach season (when we're just so excited to see them and want to make sure they last forever), or at their season's very end (when we've probably eaten enough peaches over the sink, juices dripping down our chins, that we can accept that it will be a while until we have a raw one again). I say that it probably depends on how hot your oven makes your kitchen and what the weather is like outside. In other words, I'm partial to the latter. 

The peach ketchup is adapted from a recipe from another Munich food blog: Delicious Days. I had more peaches than the original recipe called for, so I adjusted the ingredients accordingly. I also really went for it when it came to the chili and its seeds (I added a whole Thai chili), but do listen to your own taste-buds when it comes to the chili. And bonus - this recipe does not involve any canning. It keeps in the fridge for a few weeks, but it probably won't last that long if you use to make this pulled chicken, which I think that you probably should (if you eat chicken of course, that is). 

The recipe for perfect peach jam comes from Liana Krissoff's Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry. This book is a gem. It is a collection of classic recipes (like this one) that use much, much less sugar than usual and then very contemporary recipes with loud flavours (like Pineapple Jam with Chinese Five Spice). It also is a pretty thorough introduction to canning. All and all, it is a good book to have around. The original recipes makes 5 half-pint jars, but I halved it. In fact, I tend to half most recipes in this book and this is because I live in a small apartment (with a small kitchen) with my partner and as much as we love jam and pickles and most homemade things in jars, there is only so much room that we have in our tummies and our kitchen has in its shelves. But if you have room for more, do double this recipe for the original.

I'm not normally into things that are perfect. I find them rather boring. But I can't think of a better word to describe this jam. It is slightly chunky, which means that it isn't perfectly smooth looking jam, but how it tastes is just perfect. I really can't think of anything that would make it better, but because I'm being bossy tonight, when you decide to open one of the jars of the jam (to borrow Marcella's favourite word) you must bake some buttermilk biscuits. Eat them still warm with a generous amount of peach jam. Listen to Bille Holiday while you're doing it and you might just fall in love with yourself.   

Peach Ketchup

adapted from Delicious Days

makes 2 cups

1.4 pounds (640g) peaches (about 4 large)
2 shallots
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 Thai chili pepper, seeds removed if you like
1 heaping tbsp oil
3 bay leaves 
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 heaping tbsp tomato paste
70ml white wine vinegar
1 tsp sea salt

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Use a pairing knife to cut an x on the bottom of each peach. Add the peaches to the boiling water and then after a minute transfer them to a cold water bath. Once the peaches are cool enough to handle, peel them. Cut the peaches in half, remove their pits, and chop them into coarse chunks. 

Peel and finely chop the shallots and garlic. Finely chop the chili. 

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic and chile and saute them until they just soften. Add bay leaves, cinnamon, brown sugar, curry powder, and tomato paste and give it all a good stir. Cook until you just start to smell the spices and the tomato paste darkens, but do not let it burn. Add the vinegar and the chopped peaches and cook over medium-low heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly. It is ready when the soft touch of a wooden spoon easily causes the chunks of peach to collapse.

Remove the pot from the heat. Let cool slightly and then remove the bay leaves. Either transfer the mixture to a blender, or use a hand-blender to blend until completely smooth. Give it a taste and add more salt, chili, sugar and the like to your liking. 

Transfer ketchup to a jar and store in the fridge for a couple of weeks. 

* * * * *

Perfect Peach Jam

adapted from Liana Krissoff's 'Canning for a New Generation'

makes 2 half-pint jars


6 ounces (170g) Granny Smith apples (about 1 large)
2 pounds (900g) peaches, peeled (instructions above) and pitted, and diced (about 3 cups)
1 cup (200g) sugar
1.5 tbsp fresh lemon juice, strained

2 jars
1 small piece of cheesecloth

Sterilize your jars, put their lids into a heat-proof bowl, and put a saucer in the freezer.

Cut the apple into quarters and core it. Place the seeds and core into a small piece of cheesecloth and tie the cloth tightly to make sure that the seeds and core are properly enclosed.

Place the peaches and sugar into a wide, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, making sure to stir frequently, and cook until the juices cover the peaches. Remove the pot from the heat. Set up a colander over a large bowl and pour the mixture into the colander. Set the peaches aside and return the juice to the pan. Add the apple quarters and the cheesecloth bag. Bring to a boil over high heat. Let the mixture continue to boil, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the syrup reduces and is thick.

Add the peaches and any of their juices to the pan. Add the lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Stir frequently while the mixture continues to simmer until the peaches are very tender, about 15 minutes. Test to see if the jam is ready by removing the saucer from the freezer and spooning a small dab of the jam onto the chilled plate. Return the plate to the freezer and check after about a minute. The jam should be somewhat firm (but it will not gel). 

Once the jam passes this test, remove the pot from the heat and give it a gentle stir. Remove the apples (save them for a dessert, or eat them with yogurt and lots of nuts and granola) and the cheesecloth bag.

Spoon some of the boiling water for canning into the bowl with the lids. With a jar lifer, remove the jars from the canning pot and place them upright onto a folded tea towl.

Spoon the hot jam into the jars, making sure to leave about 1/4 inch head space. Wipe the rims of the jars with  a damp paper cloth and then secure the lids onto each jar. Return the jars to the pot of water, making sure the water covers the jars by at least once inch. Bring the water back to a boil and then boil for 5 minutes. Remove the jars and return them to the folded tea towel. After one hour, check to see if the lids have sealed. If they are properly sealed, label and store. If not, transfer the jars to the refrigerator and eat that jam quickly. 


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