There was now employment for the whole party; for though they could not all talk, they could all eat; and the beautiful pyramids of grapes, nectarines, and peaches soon collected them round the table.
Pride and Prejudice
Pemberly was most certainly self-sufficient when it came to providing summer fruits for their guests’ enjoyment, and it comes as no suprise that the bounty provided included peaches…a most difficult fruit to cultivate in England at that time. Perhaps Pemberley’s kitchen garden resembled that belonging to Chawton Great House, a place Jane Austen would no doubt have enjoyed and been familiar with. Edward Knight’s “new” and now existing garden was, according to the Great House trustees, “built in 1818-1822 as a kitchen garden with fruit trees on all the inner walls and on the outer sides of the south and east walls and with hard and soft fruits within. The garden was fully enclosed by malmstone and brick walls with small doorways in each wall”. The trees planted along the inner walls are trained in an espalier fashion which is both decorative and useful when harvest arrives.
Although peaches originated in China, they were brought to the Middle East by means of the Silk Road and from there made their way to Europe and England.
Oceanic climate areas like the Pacific Northwest and the British Isles are generally not satisfactory for peach growing due to inadequate summer heat, though they are sometimes grown trained against south-facing walls to catch extra heat from the sun. Trees grown in a sheltered and south-facing position in the British Isles are capable of producing both flowers and a large crop of fruit. Peach trees are the second most commonly cultivated fruit trees in the world after apple trees.*
To Preserve Peaches
Take a pound of ye fayrest & best cullered peaches you can get, wipe of theyr white hor with a clean linnen cloth, then parboyle them in halfe a pinte of whate wine, & a pint & half of running water. then pill their white scin, & weigh them, & to a pound of peach, take 3 quarters of A pound of refined sugar. dissolve it to ye height of a sirrup. then put your peaches, and let them ly in the sirrup for more then a quarter of an houre If they require it. then pot them up & keepe them all ye year; they must have A little quick boyle in ye sirrup till they jelly.
*the white wine must be of qood quality or it would be better to use water.
Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery and Booke of Sweetmeats
Chunky Peach Preserves
- 3 pounds freestone peaches
- ice water
- 5 cups sugar
- 2/3 cup strained fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
Cut an X in the rounded end of each peach. Bring a saucepan full of water to a boil over high heat. Have ready a bowl of ice water. Add peaches a few at a time to the boiling water and blanch 30 seconds, then transfer to the ice water to stop the cooking. When cool, lift out and peel. The skin should peel back easily from the X.
Cut peaches into wedges about 1/2 inch thick, then cut each wedge in half crosswise. Transfer to a large bowl, add sugar and lemon juice and stir well. Let stand several hours or overnight, stirring two or three times, until sugar dissolves and mixture no longer tastes grainy.
Transfer to a large pot, bring to a simmer over moderately high heat and simmer, skimming any white foam that collects on the surface, until peaches are tender and syrup thickens slightly, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, cover and let rest overnight to “plump” the fruit again.
Drain the fruit in a sieve set over a bowl. Taste the syrup and add more lemon juice if it seems too sweet. Return the syrup to a pot and cook over moderately high heat until it reaches 220°F 105°C). Or test for jamlike consistency by spooning a little onto a chilled saucer, then returning the saucer to the freezer for a couple of minutes to cool the syrup quickly. It should firm to a soft jelly consistency.
Return the peaches and any collected juices to the pot and cook a couple of minutes more, until mixture returns to 220°F (105°C). It will seem thin. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes, then spoon into clean, hot jars to within 1/2 inch from the top. Wipe rim clean with a towel dipped in hot water. Place lids and rings on jars and seal tightly. Cool and refrigerate for up to 3 months. Or, for longer storage, place just-filled jars in boiling water to cover by 1 inch and boil 15 minutes for half-pint jars, 20 minutes for pint jars. Transfer with tongs to a rack to cool; lids should form a seal. Sealed jars may be stored in a pantry for up to a year.
Yield: makes 3 pints
From Fresh From the Farmers’ Market, by Janet Fletcher and Victoria Pearson.
*From Wikipedia the online Encyclopedia.
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