Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla with brandied Texas peaches is an amazingly tasty combination. Looks like it is going to be the house dessert at my place for quite a while. And pint jars of brandied peach sauce are probably going to be what we give out for Christmas presents this year too. I have 30 pints of the stuff. Funny thing is, I didn’t set out to make this much brandied peach sauce.
The vendor from Lightsey Farms at the Bayou City Farmer’s Market on Richmond Ave was selling 25 pound boxes of peaches for $35. But when I told him I was making preserves, he recommended I buy “seconds.” These undersized, worm-holed, or misshapen specimens went for only $20 a box. At the price, I figured I might as well buy two.
I wasn’t sure I could process 50 pounds of peaches on my stove, all at one time. But the peaches were still hard, so I let them sit outside in the backyard for a couple of days until they were riper. By Tuesday morning, when I brought them inside, the boxes were a little lighter.
I thought I was the only one who was raiding the box for ripe specimens to eat every time I walked by, but it turned out the whole family had been munching away at them. We probably devoured a couple of pounds.
I set another 8 or 9 pounds aside because they were too smushy, too hard, or too bug-infested. After removing the skins and pits, I ended up with 25 pounds of cleaned peaches. The recipe I wrote for my new cookbook called for 8 pounds, enough to fill a nice-sized soup pot. So after weighing them in, I divided the peaches among three pots. I was planning on making two of the pots into peach preserves and one into brandied peaches.
The hit of last season’s peach canning sessions, brandied peaches are an alcoholic dessert sauce that tastes amazing on Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla. You start brandied peaches just like you are going to make peach jam, but you cut the peaches in half instead of slicing them and you only cook the peaches for 10 minutes instead of 30 or 40. Then you put the cooked peach halves in pint jars with the cooking syrup and a shot of brandy.
So I cooked two pots of sliced peaches with sugar and lemon juice for 30 minutes and one pot of peach halves for 10 minutes. I was about to start canning, but fate intervened. A plumbing emergency cut my cooking session short. Once we got through with the plumber, the clean-up, and the fast food dinner that ensued (Beck’s Prime Burgers), we had to hurry up the canning because it was getting late. I brought the peaches back to a boil and was about to stir in the pectin when my wife had a better idea.
“Let’s just make all of them into brandied peaches,” she said. You can buy pretty good peach jam, but you can’t buy brandied peaches, she reasoned. The kids ate all of last year’s homemade peach preserves on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, while the brandied peaches yielded some of the most remarkable ice cream desserts of the year.
“Why waste homemade peach preserves on toddlers?” I thought to myself. It was then that I realized that reading the new children’s book “Go the F**K to Sleep,” had ruined me as a parent.
But there was a problem. “You are only supposed to cook peach halves for 10 minutes to make brandied peaches,” I said to my wife. The brandy mixes with the syrup to make a liqueur. That won’t work here because two of the pots were cooked 30 minutes and the fruit is all well stewed down.”
“Oh well, so we call it brandied peach dessert sauce,” she said with a shrug. And that’s what we did. We mixed the half peaches with the peach stew and ended up with 30 pints of brandied “No Minors” Texas peach dessert topping. It’s not quite as sexy as the liqueur with half peaches, but it tastes damn fine.
Texas Peach Preserves (from my upcoming cookbook Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook)
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 Farms and other East Texas peaches. That’s when 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 orchard gets during the growing season. This year a late spring freeze damaged some 80% of the Hill Country peaches. The ones that made it are great, but they are hard to find. East Texas peaches are doing great.
Makes 8 pints
8 pounds peaches
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 package pectin
7 cups sugar
Whole vanilla bean (optional)
Preserve jars with new lids (such as Ball Jars)
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. Over low heat, bring slowly to a boil, stirring continuously as the juice forms. 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 very soft (30 to 40 minutes for fully cooked preserves). Return to a full boil and add the pectin, stirring continuously for a few minutes to activate the gelling reaction.
Cook until the juice forms a solid stream when poured from a spoon. Turn off the heat and ladle the mixture into the sanitized jars following the directions for Hot Water Bath Canning the came with your preserve jars.
Variation: Brandied Peaches: After removing the skin, cut the peaches into halves and proceed to add the lemon juice and sugar to the pot. Over low heat, bring to a boil and simmer the mixture for 10 minutes or until the peaches are soft. Spoon the peaches into canning jars. Add a shot of brandy or Cognac to each jar. Fill the jars with peach syrup from the pot. Follow the directions for Hot Water Bath Canning that came with your preserve jars.