When I lived in Austin, I thought that the best peaches in Texas came from the Hill Country. Then I moved to Houston and tasted Cooper’s Farm peaches and peaches from other parts of East Texas.
I realized that some years the Hill Country peaches are tops, and some years the East Texas peaches are better and some years they are pretty equal. It all depends on the weather the orchards get during the growing season. A late spring freeze, a drought or too much rain at the wrong time can ruin the peach crop no matter where the orchard is located.
This year I bought a half bushel of peaches from Lightsey Farms in Mexia at the Eastside Farmer’s Market in Houston. Careful quality testing proved them to be excellent. And so I made peach preserves and brandied peaches over the weekend.
Makes 8 pints
8 pounds peaches
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 package pectin
7 cups sugar
Whole vanilla bean (optional)
Drop the peaches in boiling water for about a minute. Then plunge into cold water. Using a butterknife, slip the skins off and cut the peaches into slices. Place the sliced peaches and lemon juice in a thick-bottomed non-reactive pot. Bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Boil for 1 minute and add the sugar and return to a hard rolling boil. Add the vanilla bean if desired.
Simmer, stirring continuously until the peaches are soft (10 minutes for preserves, 30 to 40 minutes for jam). Purists don’t add pectin to peach jam, but I am not a purist. If you want to use pectin for a firm setting jam, return the pot to a full boil add the pectin, stirring continuously for a few minutes to activate the gelling reaction.
When the pectin has gelled, the juice forms a solid stream when poured from a spoon. Turn off the heat and ladle the mixture into sterilized canning jars following the canning directions that come with the jars. After removing the jars from the hot water bath, allow to cool overnight. The next day, check the seal by pressing the top of the jar. If it clicks, the seal didn’t work and you will have to keep the jar in the fridge.
Try some homemade peach jam on your flapjacks.