An ode: Canning peaches a season of its own
Within peach season is another season called canning, filled with syrup and yellow orange orbs, heat and the thought of colder days coming.
Days when all the snow in the world can’t pull the delight of summertime out of a peach, slipped from its jar and forked into the mouth.
But first there’s peach canning season. Some walk out to pick the fruit of their own trees and others make the pilgrimage to orchards where peaches peek out among leaves curved to crescents.
At a peach shack or stand they inquire: How much for firsts, those pretty “table” peaches? What about seconds, the less expensive, slightly bruised or smallish peaches?
There’s a certain amount of thriftiness involved with canning, so usually those folks are shopping around for a good deal, said Brian Hessling, stand manager for Just Peachy!
The orchard at 3704 G 7/10 Road currently has Glo Havens, and Hessling expected they soon will be picking Cresthavens, Red Globes and Gleasons — the latter are an Elberta variety popular with those who can peaches, he said.
The harvest seems to be about a week or two early this year, he said.
Madeline Roseberry, who was taking care of the storefront at Aloha Organic Fruit (soon to be renamed Peaches and Cream by the orchard’s new owners) at 3525 G Road, echoed the news about the harvest being early.
Right now Aloha has Blazing Stars, PF 15s and Glo Havens. Next week they likely will add Red Globes, Angeluses and Contenders, which are freestone peaches with pits that are easily removed.
The Contender “is my favorite variety,” Roseberry said. “They’re large and really, really sweet.”
And so those who can peaches taste an offered sample, fresh juiciness running past the wrist, and they purchase their boxes of blushing peaches and haul them home.
Do we have enough wide-mouth jar lids? Sugar? Are we using a light or heavy syrup? Hot pack, cold pack, water bath or steam?
Inevitably, a book-marked Ball “Compete Book of Home Preserving” gets pulled off a bookshelf to double check a recipe and, ah yes, 10 minutes of additional processing time needed for the altitude.
The kitchen may be the scene for a solo act or for a group of friends and family gathered to just get this done.
An assembly line forms and steam puffs from pots. Hands slide, knives glide. Peaches fall naked into bowls, ready to be placed into clean jars.
The person with smaller hands always seems to get jar-packing duty, to overlap halves just so, to get as much as possible inside ... but leave head room! Don’t overfill! Don’t drip the syrup everywhere!
Warm lid, ring on and into the canner go the pints, the quarts, the expectations that in another day, once the seal has been found tight, jars of cheerful peaches will fill a shelf or two in the pantry.
Sure, there are plenty who have turned away from canning peaches. Just freeze, they say. It’s easier.
But not all can give up the canning.
They look forward to the suction sound of a jar lid being opened for the first time. The nicely nestled peaches. The mouthful of pure deliciousness.