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The peaches have been calling me this summer.  On my last trip to the farmers’ market, I gleefully strode away with a huge box mounded high with beautiful peaches and nectarines.  Fortunately, this coincided with an almost unprecedented two free days without the kiddos.  Oh, how productive this mama can be when the children are away!

There were enough peaches to make a few different types of products.  It was hard to resist making the Perfect Peach Cake (it really is soooo good), but I did.  Instead a made a batch of pie filling inspired by this recipe from Mrs. Wheelbarrow.  A few pounds went to making a puree for peach ice cream (still working out the kinks on that recipe).  With the bulk of the peaches I made one of my favorite pantry items, Peppered Peach and Rosemary Jam.

This jam is special.  Sweet white peaches, earthy rosemary, and just a hint of spice from the cracked pepper, the combination is delightful.  I serve it with cheese such as brie or chevre.  It is a definite crowd pleaser and an excellent hostess or holiday gift.

Peppered Peach and Rosemary Jam

adapted from Martha Stewart

makes 5 half-pints

3 pounds white peaches (you can use yellow, but I prefer the white varieties for this jam)

1/3 cup lemon juice

3 cups sugar

4 large sprigs rosemary

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Peel and pit the peaches. (Very ripe peaches are very easy to peel with a knife.  If your peaches do not peel easily, they are probably not ripe enough.  If you must make the jam without allowing them to ripen further, you can boil them for one minute, then plunge into cold water to loosen the skin.)

Slice the peaches into 1/2 inch slices.  Place peaches in a large bowl, add lemon juice, sugar, rosemary, and pepper.  Cover and let stand for 4 hours.  Stir every hour to incorporate the sugar.

Transfer peach mixture to a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cook for 15 minutes, until mixture is syrupy.  Lightly mash the mixture to break down peach slices, leave 1/3 of wedges intact.  Discard rosemary sprigs (you can fish out the individual rosemary leaves if you want, but I leave some in for color and interest.)

Ladle jam into hot sterile jars.  Leave a 1/2 inch head-space. Top with a new lid and band. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes for half-pint jars.  See Home Canning Basics for more information about the canning process.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe:  Peppered Peach and Rosemary Jam

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Perfect Peach Cake

July 17, 2011

It is hard to beat a fresh summer peach.  At their peak, taking a bite of a perfectly ripe juicy peach is a transcendent experience.  I find that farmers’ markets are the best place to buy peaches.  The smaller farmers are much more likely to have a sense of the true maturity of the fruit they grow and allow it to fully develop.  They also often give samples so you can judge for yourself the quality of the fruit.  It was with these magical fruits in mind that I set out to make Perfect Peach Cake.

This recipe is slightly adapted from one in the last issue of Cook’s Illustrated. Once I saw it, I could not get it out of my mind.  I began searching for a reason to make it, which luckily was not too difficult.  The recipe involves some unusual steps such as roasting half of the peaches before adding them to the batter and sprinkling them with panko to absorb the excess juices that threaten to make a soggy cake.

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