food, history, rural life, and how we connect our cultural past and future
First peaches in the jar this season
It’s an overcast drizzly summer day here at my house; perfect for canning peaches. Local peaches have gone up in price this year but I was able to find one orchard that would sell me seconds; fruit a bit ugly or too ripe or both. My old dependable source is using their extra fruit for themselves in their new processing plant. I do wish them all the luck in the world but it means I’ve had to scramble to get enough for our needs. That will be about 40 quart jars worth to see us through till next mid-summer. I do have some jars left over from last year but if I want to share with family and give a jar or two as a gift it will be cutting it close.
The two and a half bushels of seconds I bought came to $76 bucks. A person who doesn’t have the putting-things-by bug might ask if it wouldn’t be cheaper just to buy peaches in a can. And it’s possible the economics of the thing might bear them out but that’s not how I think. (1) Growing up I experienced a lot of my life living way close to the bone. No frills. No extras. There were some times of hunger. The end result of rows of jars full of fruit in my cupboard satisfies something almost primitive in my psyche. (2) I like the physical act of canning. With the smell of the ripe fruit pervading the kitchen the big pots of boiling water and sugar syrup and all the tools laid out demand a careful choreography for their efficient use. Anyone who knows my kitchen knows I do love big cooking pots! (3) And I like manipulating the fruit itself. I do grant you the blanching and peeling can get tedious but the slippery beauty of a yellow peach with a red rosy glow on one side is a tactile hand feel beyond describing. (4) To me commercially canned or frozen peaches just do not taste as good as those grown in one’s own neighborhood! Don’t the wine guys call it ‘terroir’? I’d grow my own but the pruning, spraying, staying-ahead-of-the-critters work is far too much to take on. As it is I’m having a hell of a time getting my damn pear, apple and plum trees to bear!
Well, enough of rhapsodizing. The first batch is out of the two canners. All the jar lids have clicked and sealed. So it’s back to work. I still have another bushel to go with maybe one batch of peach jam when I run out of quart jars. Hmmm, maybe a fresh cobbler?