putting food by: texas peach, sweet onion & thyme relish

texas, this tuesday
notes from maggie's farm

Two of the finest crops that the Texas Hill Country has to offer is sweet peaches, and sweet onions. We're lucky enough to have had a bumper crop of each this year.  Around the country, peaches are either in full season, or have just begun showing up in the markets and roadside fruit stands.  And what was once only available to those of us lucky enough to live in the South, sweet onions--Vidalia, 1015's, Noondays, and the like, are now more common all over the country.  

As one of our contributions to Ball Preserving's National Can It Forward Day, and Canning Across America's Can-A-Rama celebrations, this Texas Peach, Sweet Onion & Thyme Relish is loosely based on a recipe from Southern Living Magazine, clipped from its pages, and forwarded to me by my precious mother (We'll revisit that nice surprise later today, in this evening's post). It is sweet, with peaches and sugar, savory, with red pepper, sweet onion, and  herbs, and sour, with the addition of cider vinegar, a combination of flavors traditional in the South, then taken up a culinary notch with the addition of fresh thyme, which adds a whisp of a french-fare flavor--call it southern comfort food with a little accessorizing.  

Use this special treat as an accompaniment to cheeses and meats, or a quick lunch on a buttered biscuit, maybe with a sliver of Virginia ham, or proscuitto, and a smudge of creamy goat cheese.  I love to enjoy it with a tiny plateful of crispy, peppery cheese wafers.  Later today, join us as we show you how to utilize this relish to make quick work of an elegant supper--Peach-Glazed Pork with Sweet Peppers. 

And now on to the magic...

While you can certainly prepare this relish and move it, packed in sterile jars, straight to the fridge for several months of safe-keeping, the peaches, sugar, lemon juice, and salt all make this a perfect candidate for boiling water-bath canning.  Please review last week's post on the detailed process before starting, and prepare your workspace with prepped jars, lids, canner, and a kettle of filtered water ready to boil, with which to top of the water in the canner, if necessary.  The more preparation you can complete before beginning, the more success you'll find with the whole canning affair.

Yield: About 8 half-pint jars (prepare several extra jars, as canning yields often differ according to varieties of fruits used)
2 cups water, 2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 cups apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup (bottled) lemon juice,
2 T kosher salt, 1 T yellow mustard seed, 2 tsp celery salt, 2 t crushed red pepper flake, 1 t granulated garlic, 4 whole bay leaves, one full bunch fresh thyme, de-stemmed (the equivalent of 1 heaping tablespoon of thyme leaves), or 1 and 1/2 tsp dried thyme
3 pounds fresh, washed peaches, peels left on, sliced into 8 wedges, then each wedge sliced in fourths
3 pounds sweet onions, peeled and sliced, thinly.

Combine liquids and seasonings in a heavy-bottomed dutch oven; stainless steel or enameled cast iron--do not use aluminum pots or utensils for any canning processes.  Bring liquid to a boil.  Add peaches and onions.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a full simmer over medium, to medium-high heat, stirring often, and cooking until peaches just begin to break down, which should be at least 30-45 minutes.

Ladle into clean jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Wipe rims well, seal, and place in canner, allowing space around each jar, and with enough water to cover tops of jar by one inch.  (If hard water is a problem in your area, use filtered water to can, and add 1-2 T vinegar to water in canner to prevent hard water spots on jars and lids.)  Process for 10 minutes, covered, after water comes to a rolling boil, according to canning directions covered in last week's post, 'yes, you can!'.

When processing is complete, turn off and remove canner from burner.  Uncover, and let stand 10 minutes.  Lift jars from canner with a jar lifter, and place on a towel or cooling rack in a location where they will be left undisturbed, for 24 hours.  At the end of 'rest' time, check for seal by gently depressing the center of the lid.  If lids do not 'pop', they are properly sealed. Remove any that have not sealed to be refrigerated (and used first), remove outer band, and store in a cool, dark pantry, closet, cabinet, or shelf for up to one year.

Be sure to stop back later today for Peach-Glazed Pork and Sweet Peppers, a genius way to use this fancy relish to make your life a little sweeter, and easier.  We'll get you in and out of the kitchen, with a sophisticated meal, in short order, with, perhaps, time left over to enjoy a summer sunset--likely one of the most precious moments of a hot summer day.  

Hope this day is just peachy for you.
Sorry.  Couldn't resist.

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