Remembering Summer: Canning Peaches

Remembering Summer: Canning Peaches

It’s this time of year where I really start to appreciate all the work I put into canning in the summer (and lament that I didn’t make enough of some things – like salsa!).

I’ve been lucky to have someone to can with each summer. Canning dates with my sister-in-law, Brittany, have been so fun. Each year we get a bit more adventurous and try out new things.

I started out small with canning. When I was I teenager I would help my mom make strawberry jam. She would get me to skim the foam off the top or put the lids on the jars once they were filled. Mostly, I just dreamed of all the rollkuchen that I would dip in the strawberry jam.

In the last few years I’ve taken more of an interest in canning to be able to enjoy some local produce in the winter. I freeze some things and can others. My favourite summer fruit fresh or preserved is peaches. I usually freeze and can them. 

 

 

A Marathon Peach-Canning Session

Despite my love for peaches, canning them this past summer was nothing but a headache. And I put up with hours of frustration and exhaustion through the summer-scorching heat with no air conditioning just to get them into jars.

It all started when I got greedy and saw all of the beautiful Baby Golds at the market. I asked for three baskets – not just regular size baskets – big baskets. It was about $50 of peaches to split between Britt and me. It took us all day to can them and we almost gave up.

The farmer from Beamsville showed us the trick for getting the pit out of Baby Golds. They’re a variety of peach where the pit clings to the flesh of the peach (that’s where the real tricky part comes in). They’re very difficult to can if you’re looking to do a bushel full. We forgot one crucial step that he mentioned to us:

Leave the skin on!!

It helps to leave the skin on so you can get a grip when you slice around the centre of the peach and then twist it to get the pit out. Then you scoop the pit out of the second half. And THEN you peel the peach after it’s in two halves.

Well, Britt and I were avidly peeling the peaches, sitting at the kitchen table while my nephew, our 4-month-old canning companion, provided pleasant distractions. When I started trying to remove pit from the already peeled peaches and struggled, I freaked out.

“Britt! Stop peeling right now!”

We were soaking the peaches we had peeled in lemon juice so they wouldn’t brown. I was wedging my fingers to try and pull the peach in half. I couldn’t get enough grip on the peach. The pit scraped under my nails and the lemon juice aggravated things even more.

I only had about 50 more peaches to go…

Why all this trouble for Baby Golds, you ask? Well, they are the best for canning. Their flesh holds together and they stay firm in the jar.

After all the effort of pitting and peeling we had tonnes of peaches to can. We spent all day at it. Because after all that peeling and pitting comes the canning part, right? Next year I will take it a bit slower (and now I’m wiser, too) and do a bit here and there rather than a tonne of peaches all in one day.

But of all the things we canned last summer the peaches are still my favourite. We tried a new recipe too. Yes, peaches in sugar water are nice and all, but they’re even better with chilli peppers, anise, ginger, and cinnamon sticks. Oh, such a sweet kick.

 

My Oma’s Root Cellar       

It turns out that my Opa and Oma’s favourite canned item is peaches too. I was looking through my conversations with them last fall and realized we had talked about it even then:

Oma: Well, ya, when we, I got married here [in Canada after her move from Paraguay when she was 20], in time I started [canning] when we had a house, I started. I canned lots of peaches. That’s one thing we really loved. Peaches and pears. I also made – what do you call it? – cut up peaches and pears:  mixed fruit.

Opa: And those little apples.

Avery: You canned crab apples? Did you pickle them?

Oma: Ya. I did them sweet too. Not sour. At least that’s they way we liked it, because they are a little bit sour. Different than peaches.

I love talking to my Oma about canning. I remember that she had a root cellar in the basement of her house, before they moved into the senior’s home. I remembered it was cold and I remember many shelves lined with canning. She didn’t store any produce in there – it was ALL canning. Beautiful jewel-toned canning shining in glass jars.

Unfortunately my conversation with my Oma got cut off there. My Opa was sitting with us in the living room too and canning isn’t really his thing, or any kind of discussion about cooking or baking. It was this short conversation with Oma that led me to realize that I want some specialized time with her – some time where we can talk about canning and baking all we want with no one else to interrupt us. Where we can savour in the pure pleasure of creating things together. I’m excited for round number two tomorrow: we already made fudge and tomorrow we make zwieback

 

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About Avery Peters

Sharing stories. Sharing food.

I express my creativity in the kitchen. My inspiration comes from being outside—in the forest, on the farm, by the ocean, or going to the farmers’ market. I love to share food with family and friends.