A lot of folklore and delicious recipes have grown up around that member of the rose family known as the peach.
In Japan, it's considered barbarian to eat an unpeeled peach.Early American cooks solved the problem of defuzzing peaches by dipping them in lye. a
In the 1800s the English believed that peaches inspired lust -- in fact, they called houses of prostitution "peach houses." But it was the peach blossom that caused the Chinese to fear for their daughters' virtue, and no responsible Chinese parent would have planted a peachtree beneath the bedroom window of a girl child.
Chinese folk wisdom holds that a broom made from the branches of a peachtree will sweep the witches out of your house. And according to Italian folk medicine, burying peach leaves in the back yard will cure warts.
Amish cooks put a peach pit in the botom of the pot to keep apple butter from burning.But there's also a recipe that uses the leaves of the peachtree, and one that uses the kernels inside the pits, as well as recipes for the whole peach.
Before starting, you need clean home-canning jars. Here are three ways to sterilize them: Put the jars upside-down in a huge pot, fill with water, boil for five to six minutes; or bake clean jars in a 225* oven for 20 minutes; or run them through the rinse cycle of your dishwasher. (This last is recommended only if houehold water reaches at least 150*f.)
PEACH JAM - Sterilize eight 1-cup glass containers. Peel, pit and finely chop 2 3/4 cups of ripe peaches and put them in a big bowl. (Easiest way to peel peaches: pour boiling water over them and let stand for five minutes or so. The skins will slip off easily.)
Mix in 6 1/2 cups of sugar and wait 10 minutes. Meanwhile, squeeze the juice of three lemons into a small bowl and add 6 ounces of liquid pectin. Add the contents of the small bowl to those in the big bowl and stir three minutes. Fill the containers, allowing an inch of expansion room at the top of each. Attach the lids securely. They'll keep in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. If you use plastic containers (steralized by the dishwasher method), you can freeze the jam for up to a year.
BRANDIED PEACHES - For each quart of brandied peaches you plan to make you will need: a wide-mouthed quart jar with a tight-fitting lid, a pound of peaches (each small enough to get through the mouth of the jar), half a pound of sugar and about 3/4 cup of good brandy. For perfectly halved peaches, use the freestone variety instead of cling peaches.
Steralize the jars and lids. Peel the peaches and put them, one by one, into the jar, adding sugar as you go. Pour in enough brandy to cover the top peach completely. Attach the lid securely and store in a cool, dark place for two or three months.
Variations: use brown sugar instead of white, use fruit-flavored brandy instead of plain, add a drop or two of almond extract.
PESCHEN (PEACH-LEAF LIQUEUR) - Jetho Kloss, author of the natural-food-lovers' bible, Back to Eden , recommends peach leaves as a cure for dyspepsia, morning sickness, whooping cough, worms, cholera and assorted other ills. For a painless way to drink the leaves, here's a recipe from Emilio Cocconi's Liqueurs for All Seasons .
Place 70 peach leaves, the sliced peel of half a lemon (yellow part only), 24 ounces of sparkling semi-sweet white wine, four ounces of sugar and 10 ounces of 95-proof alcohol in an air-tight sterilized glass jar. Let the mixture soften for six weeks, shaking occasionally during this time. At the end of that period, strain through a colander and through filter paper into a sterilized dark-glass bottle. Cork, seal with wax and let it mature quietly for nine months before serving. Makes about 34 ounces.
YOU OLD PEACH, YOU - Then there are those rejuvenating qualities of peaches.
To restore your peaches-and-cream complexion, blend half a peach with an egg white, slather this over the face and don't wash it off until it reaches the hard-crack stage. Supposedly, a skin-tightener.
For thinning hair: bruise several kernels from inside peach pits, and stew the kernels in vinegar until you have a congealed glob. Apply this to where the hair grows thin. The inventor of this hair restorer, Nicholas Culpepper, died 200 years ago, so he could not be reached for comment on its efficacy.