Friday, August 29, 2008

A jar of summer~

Today I decided to stock the larder for the coming winter. The abundance of peaches, some so ripe and ready that they are dropping off the tree, warrants more that the momentary pleasure of eating them with brown sugar and cream for breakfast.

I could eat peaches and cream for three meals a day, and still not eat them all before they drop to the ground for the ants, and something else that bites chunks from them sometime in the night.

I figured I could make peach preserves and have myself a golden taste of August when the snow flies and the wind beats on the windows this December.

I needed Ball jars. I'd given away the jars left over from my last domestic surge, an unpleasant event involving yellow beans several years ago. Since then I learned it was easier-- and therefore more my style-- to vacuum pack, and freeze fruit and veggies. And then, I stopped doing even that. Who wants yellow beans in the winter? Although, as I write that I feel a twinge of awareness that many people have far less on their plates than I do, and would devour yellow beans anytime, and here I am sticking my over-fed nose up at eating them in December.

So it's a little of that guilt, too, that makes me decide to can peaches today. That, and the idea of peaches on oatmeal in the middle of a New England blizzard. My mouth waters in anticipation.

I left the store having overestimated how many Ball jars I'd need. I stacked four 12-packs in the passenger's seat. The car treated me like a negligent mother, flashing the seatbelt light, then "pinging" in an ever-increasing tempo until I pulled over and buckled up my jar babies.

Of the 48 jars I bought, I filled four with peach preserves. Lots of labor to produce quintuplets. Loads of peaches to peel, and slice, but peaches are juicy and they take up much less space after simmering for a while. Still, four jars will get me through the month of December.

I had a moment of being very hard on myself-- about the time I took a nap while waiting for the sugar to "draw the juices" from the peaches. The recipe said this would take two or three hours and I was sleepy. As I was drifting off I chastised myself. If I was in a little house on a prairie and my family depended on what I preserved for their survival through the months of winter, would I take a nap? Probably not, but only because the house in my imagination had only one room and I had five crying children under the age of ten wandering near an open fireplace while I tried to get comfortable on my cornhusk mattress.

In real life, I had a nice nap, and woke to finish "putting up" my four pints of peaches. Good thing I have an empty nest. But I just might can some salsa and tomato sauce tomorrow. And maybe put some of my seashells in some of the other jars. That's a nice touch of summer that will see me through the winter when the peaches are gone.
"In the depths of winter I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."~ Albert Camus


leslie said...

Oh my goodness! I absolutely LOVE peaches - peach cobbler or peach crumble or peach pie or peach ice cream - anything peaches! Peaches on oatmeal, peaches on cereal, peaches in a bowl with vanilla ice cream on top. Can you tell I love peaches???

Have you ever made red pepper jelly? Maybe you could make some with the other jars and give them away for Xmas gifts.

Ruth D~ said...

Leslie~ My father made some jelly from hot peppers that was so delicious. The thing is, I grew the peppers; he made the jelly-- which was a good deal.

Pauline said...

oh yum - I'd happily trade a jar of those peaches for one I put up of peppers, onions and tomatoes from my garden, or a jar of my red pepper relish or perhaps pickles (oh lordy - 23 pints of those so far, will the cucumbers NEVER end?) or even my one jar of pickled beets!

RiverPoet said...

Ruth - Those peaces look mouth-watering! The last time I froze or canned was with my mother when I was a teenager, so I envy you having the wherewithal and the stamina to put all this together.

And naps? Are a good thing :-)

Peace - D

Tere said...

"I needed Ball jars. I'd given away the jars left over from my last domestic surge" - Too funny. Sounds just like me. I like to believe I am domestic and as resourceful as my mother and grandmother. But the truth is that I am just not good at it and I don't really like it that much. But I go through bouts of domesticity - planting tomatoes, making jam, putting up green beans. They usually end in disaster and my mother-in-law rescues me with hers.

Really enjoy hearing about your adventures.

sc morgan said...

You brought back great memories for me, Ruth (aka Laura Ingles). I used to make sauerkraut (quite easy, actually), can corn, tomatoes, pears, peaches and applesauce. I once made homemade root beer using bark and all natural ingredients. Forget all those silly kits, I thought. They began to explode in the basement a couple of weeks later and I had to don my bee-keeping outfit, for protection, and open up all those bottles. Some of the foam shot a good 20 feet when the bottle was opened. I guess I was a bit heavy handed on the carbonation end of the recipe. Those were my Mother Earth days.

Made my own soap too.

I was just talking to my mother last week, when I was in the States, and asking her if she thought home canning would make a comeback what with the buy local/ eat local mindset of many in the USA right now.

Good to see you at it and you'll love those peaches so much more this winter, knowing you made them. I used to freeze flats of cane berries, too. Nothing like having a Marion berry pie with warm cream on a bleak February day!

Barbara said...

I'm in awe of people who do canning. Once upon a time I put up tomatoes and beans and other things from our garden, but the garden's gone and I've lost my commitment to planning for winter. I still have my big canning pot... maybe I should get it out!

Ross Eldridge said...

Oh, my, Ruth,

But those preserves look terrific!

I have had my first fruit of the season. The blackberries are ripe enough to just start falling to the pathways like so many splats of chewing tobacco.

So, while walking the newly-castrated Cailean, I have been reaching into the hedgerows and coming home with two bags ... one with glistening blackberries, the other with the dog's poop. I try not to confuse them!

My Cheerios are really quite special these dim mornings. As I don't use sugar, the zip of fresh fruit is really relished.

Thirty years ago I tried my hand at canning tomatoes. Didn't we call the bottles "Mason Jars"?

Had to laugh at Sarah's description of the WMDs she was left with after her root beer bottling efforts. The beekeeper's outfit!

A neighbour's tree has ripe apples, which seems a bit early. Last year, I believe I went apple-picking in late September. We had apple crumble through the winter months.

Autumn ain't all bad!


leslie said...

Thinking about you and wondering what you've got planned for your first "real" week of retirement. Hope it's fun! :D

Janice Thomson said...

They look so good Ruth - may I come to your place one winter's day for peaches and cream?
This post brought back some warm memories of canning, freezing and the like - and of enjoying the fruits of one's labor on a cold stormy winter day.

Carter said...

My daughter gave me a sack of fresh peaches today. My wife and I ate four of them for dessert tonight. It's very nice to have a daughter who is good for something! Of course she does other good things, but giving me peaches is special.

These wouldn't last to be canned--they'll be eaten fresh. But I'll envy you yours when winter comes. My favorite fruit, and I love all of them but apples. You get an A+ for domesticity.

And yes, Ross, those are Mason jars. At least they used to be. :-)

Wanda said...

What a beautiful and tasty sight!! I'm so glad you had a domestic surge... for now I am inspired to do some canning!

I haven't for a long time, but I don't think there is anything as lovely as the colors of fruit and veggies in glass jars....

I also think the sea shells is a good idea too.

I'm with Janice, I would love to come over this winter and have peaches and cream.....Yummmm


Bob Sanchez said...

Hey Ruth, I love the photos of the delicious peaches. There is something about canning fruit for the winter that suggests willpower--me, I'd just gorge myself until I didn't want to see anymore peaches, and the rest would never get preserved.

In the Texas hill country near Austin, we pass by a number of peach stands closed for the season. We've yet to see them open for business, and we come this way every other month.

Jo said...

Oh, gosh, can I come over to your house? One of my favorite recipes calls for peaches, brown sugar, butter, graham crackers... a little whipped cream.

I'll make it for you if you like. :-)

Rozel said...

I just had a flash back of helping my mother can. I absolutly loved to help her can. I have yet to can, now that I am a grown up. Yesterday, I ran into a girlfriend who I hadn't seen in 10 years and she was buying jars for canning. It seemed so responsible. Maybe next year I will become responsible and start to can.