Old family recipes make the most satisfying meals and are always a hit with family and friends. Here are some of Stephanie's favorites.
Before You Start
Before you start, make sure you have a stone crock or a few large glass or stoneware bowls. Containers should be washed well with hot, soapy water and rinsed well. You can use plastic wrap to cover them. During the fermentation process, it’s a good idea to place the containers on trays in case your mixture overflows. I learned this the hard way and had to clean up a sticky floor when my crock bubbled over during fermentation.
Peaches can be peeled if you wish, but leaving the skins on gives the brandy a pretty pink blush that is very attractive if you bottle it in clear glass.
- 3 quarts peaches, cut up with pits, but unpeeled with bruises cut off
- 4 pounds sugar
- 6 cups cold water, unchlorinated
- 6 teaspoons dry yeast
- Wash peaches well and cut each one into 4 or 5 pieces. It’s fine to leave stones in, but I usually take them out because it makes more room for the peaches in the container.
- Layer peaches with sugar in a large stone crock. Dissolve yeast in about a cup of warm water and add to the peaches and sugar. Pour the cold water on top to cover the peaches. Be sure to leave room for the fermenting process to bubble. Cover the crock with a plate or a clean towel and place it out of the way on a tray with low sides to catch any of the juice that might overflow the crock.
- After a week, stir the mixture with a long-handled spoon, cover and let sit. I like to stir it once a week for about four weeks. The mixture will bubble a little when you stir it, a sign that it's still fermenting. After four weeks, strain the mixture and discard the peach pulp and pits. Pour the brandy into bottles (I use whatever is handy from mason jars to old wine bottles).* Cover the bottles tightly and store in a cool, dar
- Cover the bottles tightly and store in a cool, dark place. The brandy will taste better if you let it sit for a few months.
- Note: Some readers have been concerned that they will not know if fermentation is complete when they bottle. If you have concerns about the safety of bottling, I would suggest that you cover the bottle tops with plastic wrap or put lids on loosely. Check them after a couple of weeks and check for bubbles, signs of fermentation. If all is well, you can tighten the lids.
Making Peach Brandy
There were still more beautiful ripe peaches, so I decided to try my hand at making peach brandy. I searched old recipe books as well as the internet and finally decided to create my own recipe using a combination of techniques I had read about.
Peach brandy is basically a mixture of fruit and sugar. When left alone for a while, it will ferment and produce a peach flavored alcoholic liquid. By adding yeast to the sugar/fruit/water mixture, the fermentation process gets a jump start.
This Peach "Brandy" is Technically Peach Wine
The recipe included here is called "Brandy" by those who make it. However, technically it is wine because it is not fortified with spirits. According to Wikipedia, true brandy has an alcohol content of 30-60%. The alcohol content of wine ranges from 8-20%. Although I do not know the alcohol content of my peach "brandy", it's probably in the range of wine and not true brandy.
There are some recipes that call for the addition of brandy to the mixture. This would give you a higher alcohol content and also stop fermentation if you are concerned about bottling too soon.
Is there anything more luscious than a juicy sweet tree-ripened peach? When we bought our house with its very own peach tree, we immediately began looking forward to our very own juicy fruit.
The only thing was, the peach tree at our new house was ugly. It leaned to the right at a precarious angle, and it was lopsided. In July it lost all of its leaves and stood there naked for several months. This seemed like a good indication that the tree was never going to produce fruit. In November, when everything else in our garden was going dormant, the tree decided to bloom. What the . . . ?
Best Time to Pick Peaches
Peaches should have creamy or yellow color under the blush to indicate ripeness. Ripe peaches also have a good fragrance and a well-defined crease. If you are going to pick the fruit and use it immediately, you will want it at the peak of ripeness and it should be slightly softened. A tree-ripened peach has the most sugar content. A peach that is ripened after picking will get softer and flavor might increase, but sugar content will not increase.
You can refrigerate fully ripe peaches and they will keep for a few days. If you have ripe peaches that are still firm, leave them at room temperature (65-70°F) for a day or two to fully ripen. Peaches picked green will never ripen well.
Look Tree, Produce Fruit or Die!
The next spring, the tree leafed out but never bloomed. It leaned a little more to the right. Summer came and no fruit. By November when it decided to bloom again just in time for our first snow flurries, we decided to have a serious talk with it.
Read More From Delishably
“Look, Tree, you’ve got to straighten out! Bloom in the spring! Produce fruit in the summer! Act like a normal peach tree or you’re firewood!”
To emphasize the point, we tied a rope to the tree, tied the other end to the jeep and pulled the peach tree upright. Then we put a few 2 x 4s around to keep it straight. That November it did not bloom. Good sign!
Peaches at last!
Finally, last April, our wacky tree decided to produce a profusion of flowers. Another good sign! It was so exciting, and in June we were rewarded with a bumper crop of wonderful, juicy peaches. Amazingly, they were insect and disease-free even though we had not used any chemicals or pesticides on them. I loved picking them and arranging a basket or bowl as a centerpiece on the kitchen table. I loved the peachy scent and enjoyed having cut up peaches on my breakfast cereal or with sugar and cream for a desert.
After we had our fill of peaches and cream, peach pie and peach shortcake, we made peach jam. We gave peaches to the neighbors and our kids and the air conditioner repairman. There were still peaches on the tree!
Homemade peach brandy is wonderful poured over ice cream or just served in a small glass to sip. It’s a sweet, almost syrupy liquor, but it does have alcohol content, and tastes wonderful! Enjoy!
Questions & Answers
Question: What is best temperature to store peaches while fermenting?
Answer: I usually store my peaches at room temperature, around 75°, but I don't think it would hurt to store them a little cooler or a little warmer.
Question: Some of the peaches have a green color. Can I use them to make peach brandy?
Answer: You can use them, but very ripe peaches are much better.
Question: What is the best way to strain the pits and peaches out of the brandy? Will it be clear?
Answer: I use a clean cotton cloth or cheesecloth to strain out the pits and pulp. My brandy is not perfectly clear, and I've never minded. If you wish to clarify it further, you can let it sit for another few days and let any sediment settle out, then siphon off the clear liquid on the top.
Question: Does it have to be a stone crock or can you use a 5-gallon bucket when making peach brandy?
Answer: You need something non-porous that will not impart flavor to the brandy/wine. Glass, ceramic, stoneware, enamelware or stainless steel work well. Plastic is not so good.
Question: How many cups of peaches go into a peach brandy?
Answer: That depends on the size of your container. Use enough ripe peaches to layer with sugar so that the container is filled.