Preserved Peaches in Vanilla Syrup
(Yields 4 quarts or 8 pints)
8 lbs. ripe peaches, freestone variety recommended
2 tsp. ascorbic acid
4 qts. water, divided
1 qt. ice
5 cups sugar
4 vanilla beans
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Make a small ‘X’ on the bottom of each peach. Try to just cut through the skin and not the flesh. In a large bowl, mix the ascorbic acid with two quarts water and the ice. Carefully place the peaches in the boiling water and blanch for about 20 seconds. Remove and place in the acidulated water bath.
For the syrup, split the vanilla beans and scrape them into another pot with two quarts of water and sugar. Bring to a simmer over high heat.
Peel the peaches, cut them in half, and divide into sterilized jars.
Pour the vanilla syrup into each jar, leaving about a half inch of space at the top. Place one vanilla bean into each jar. Process jars to seal.
■ Muddle with fresh herbs (mint, basil, etc.) for a great cocktail with bourbon, rye, or rum.
■ Dice and combine with a little bit of the syrup for a summertime ice cream treat in winter.
■ Purée with a bit of sherry vinegar and add to a sauce to liven up pork, duck, or other fowl.
■ Dice and mix with yogurt and granola.
■ Purée and add to a mustard-based barbecue sauce.