NZ Gardener - Garden Diary 2018 - - Crop Of The Month -

If you've planted a se­lec­tion of peach va­ri­eties, you'll be lucky enough to en­joy a long sea­son of tasty, juicy fruit. ’May­crest’, ’Orion’ and ’Springcrest’, for ex­am­ple, are typ­i­cally ready to eat by Christ­mas (which is a handy at­tribute in Auck­land’s hu­mid cli­mate, as it means the fruit is all gone by the time brown rot spores start to show up to spoil your har­vest), fol­lowed by white-fleshed ’Wig­gins’ in early Jan­uary, fol­lowed by ’Flatto’ in late Jan­uary and ’Golden Queen’ and ’Black­boy’ in late Fe­bru­ary/early March. ’Black­boy’ is ev­ery­thing you could ask for in a peach. It’s full of flavour and ripens late enough to avoid brown rot (if you’re lucky); it’s easy to grow without sprays (it will get leaf curl, but it doesn’t do the tree any no­tice­able dam­age); it comes true from a stone, pro­duc­ing fruit within four years; and its fuzzy brown skin seems to trick the birds into leav­ing the fruit alone un­til it’s so ripe they can smell it. Plus it’s free­stone, so easy to process in jams or as bot­tled fruit. Pick fruit when still firm as it’s eas­ier to peel without end­ing up with a hand­ful of juicy pur­ple mush!

For sliced, BOT­TLED PEACHES, ‘Golden Queen’ is fan­tas­tic, even if it is an­noy­ingly cling­stone. If you’re try­ing to cut down on your sugar con­sump­tion, it can be bot­tled in wa­ter as its fruit has enough nat­u­ral sug­ars any­way. Just peel and slice the flesh off the stones, pack it into pre­serv­ing jars, fill with hot wa­ter, and process in a boil­ing wa­ter bath for 15 min­utes, or un­til you can see air bub­bles ris­ing in the jars. (The jars should be fully sub­merged by 2-3cm.)

An­other way to pre­serve peaches for win­ter pud­dings is to STEW sliced fruit with a lit­tle wa­ter, to stop it stick­ing, and some honey and vanilla. After cook­ing, set aside to cool, then spoon into plas­tic pot­tles to freeze.

Or try Alice Arun­dell’s PEACH AND RASP­BERRY COR­DIAL, which makes about 8 cups. Put 375g rasp­ber­ries (fresh or frozen) and ½ cup wa­ter in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Re­duce the heat, sim­mer for 2 min­utes, then mash un­til pulpy. Strain the mix­ture through a fine or muslin cloth into a large bowl. Put 1.5kg peaches and 1 cup of wa­ter in the same saucepan and bring to a boil. Re­duce the heat and sim­mer un­til pulpy (10-15 min­utes). Mash well, then pour into the muslin on top of the drain­ing rasp­ber­ries. Stand for an hour (or un­til the drip­ping has stopped), then squeeze to ex­tract more juice. Com­bine the juice and 1½ cups sugar in a large saucepan and stir over medium heat un­til the sugar has dis­solved. Add ¼ cup lemon juice and taste. Add more lemon juice if you pre­fer the cor­dial more tart. Bring the juice to the boil and boil for 2 min­utes. Pour the hot syrup into hot, ster­ilised bot­tles and seal im­me­di­ately. La­bel and date the bot­tles once cold. Store in the fridge for up to 3 months.

PEACH JAM is all the bet­ter when made as a chunky con­serve. This ap­proach pre­serves some of the tex­tu­ral plea­sure of the fresh fruit – more so if you in­clude a mod­est amount of shred­ded, vel­vety skin. Add 1kg diced peaches to a saucepan along with 1kg jam-set­ting sugar and the juice of a small lemon. Cook over a low heat un­til the sugar has dis­solved. Turn heat up and boil rapidly for 4 min­utes. To check that your con­serve is set, place a drop of the con­serve on a very cold spoon or plate. The sur­face of the con­serve should wrin­kle when pressed with a spoon. Pour into hot, ster­ilised jars and seal.

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