Just the thought of fresh peaches brings me back to the summers of my youth, when my family made a yearly road trip from DC to Hilton Head, South Carolina. Driving along the southeast coast in the middle of July, you'd feel the hot, muggy air and wish you were anywhere but in your car. Back then, though, being in the car also had its perks. Namely, one could find all kinds of yummy treats, right there for sale on the side of the road. Fresh corn, boiled peanuts, and best of all, juicy, golden southern peaches. We used to pick them up by the bagfuls and eat them in the car, swatting away the fruit flies that gathered around right there with us. That's why, when we saw this recipe for brandied peaches last summer in the New York Times, we jumped for joy. New England peaches are no match for the peaches of the South. But that's why they're the perfect candidate for canning - they still have that wonderful peachy flavor but the temptation to eat them raw isn't as great. We canned these over the summer and saved them for times like this, when even the idea of summer makes us warmer. We recently tried them on french toast with blueberries and caramelized bananas. And boy were they tasty!
3 pounds ripe peaches
3 cups sugar
About 1/2 cup brandy
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Using the tip of a paring knife, make a shallow “X” in the bottom of each peach. Add the peaches, one at a time, to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Remove the peach from the water and plunge into a bowl of ice water. Repeat with the remaining peaches. Peel off the skins, then pit the fruit and quarter the flesh.
2. In another large pot, combine 3 cups water and the sugar and bring to a boil. Add the peaches and simmer until just soft.
3. Have the jars, bands and new lids scalded and ready. (To scald, dip the jars and rims in boiling water. You don’t need to sterilize the jars, as you will be processing them for more than 10 minutes.) Simmer the lids in hot water to soften the rubberized flange. Gently pack the peaches into the jars.
4. Boil the leftover syrup until it thickens slightly, then spoon it over the fruit, filling the jars ¾ full. Use a butter knife to release any air bubbles caught in the jars. Pour in enough brandy to fill the jars, leaving ¼ inch of headroom. Wipe the rims, cover with the lids and screw on the bands fingertip-tight. Place the jars on a rack in a big pot and cover with 2 to 3 inches of water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to medium and gently boil for 20 minutes. Remove the cover and then, after about 5 minutes, remove the jars. Allow them to cool, untouched, for 4 to 6 hours. Check the seals and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year. Refrigerate after opening.