It’s peach season!
Peaches are abundant at the farmers markets this time of year in Texas. I knew as soon as I saw the first ones a few weeks ago that I wanted to do something with them – jam, preserves, fruit butter, salsa…anything. (And of course, fresh ones for eating! I’ll eat all the peaches I can get my hands on!) I had to put it off for a few weeks, since I spent my economic stimulus (and a bunch more) on a brand new bicycle, but finally yesterday was the day! I woke up early to get the best selection, tried (and failed) to drag M out of bed to accompany me, and cruised my way (in M’s car, of course) down to the Sunset Valley Farmers Market, watching the threatening grey skies the whole time. Luckily, only a few errant drops of rain spattered the windshield, though I would have braved torrential downpours to get my peaches!
Upon arriving at the market, I was distressed to find that the peaches were not where I had seen them several weeks ago. Nearly heartbroken, I quickly scanned the rest of the market, only to discover several other stands selling peaches, peaches and more peaches! I picked up a couple of baskets from a kindly old farmer who seemed mildly amused to hear of someone (my age, presumably) making peach butter. Because yes! After consulting my trusty Complete Book of Home Preserving, it was peach butter that I finally decided on. I had never made a fruit butter before, but I’m certainly not afraid of trying new recipes and cooking methods, so I enlisted M’s help and we blanched, peeled, squished, boiled, sugared, stirred and canned all evening. It was great.
You can find the recipe in the book, but basically, you peel and coarsely chop (or squish, which we found easier) many pounds of peaches, then boil them for about 20 minutes with some water and lemon juice. Then, you put them through a food mill or food processor (I love my food mill) and puree them. You return them to the pot, add enormous amounts of sugar, and cook them down for about an hour, stirring frequently so they don’t stick and burn. Then comes the canning! (If you’ve never canned anything before, I recommend reading the chapter in the back of the book on canning methods and why they do what they do. It’s really informative, but not overly so, and canning is really probably a lot less complicated than you might think! Maybe I’ll do a post about the actual process sometime.)
We ended up with 5 pints of delicious, fruity summertime-in-a-jar. I know I will be glad we took the time to do this come wintertime when fresh peaches are only a fading memory and a faint hope on the horizon.
And why do I even bother? (Beside the obvious deliciousness, I mean…) When speaking with my sister recently, right after I’d canned a batch of fresh strawberry jam, she said, “Well, I just buy it from the store.” And, indeed, that certainly is so much easier! But I feel like I lose something by doing it, if I really stop to think about it. I like to have a connection to my food. I like to understand the process of how something came to be what it is. There’s no better way, in my opinion, to fully understand it than by actually doing it yourself! I also like to undertake some of the tasks that people (women, historically) used to really know how to do that so very many of us have forgotten completely, or never even known. That really underlies a lot of my hobbies – knitting, cooking, baking, preserving, film photography, growing vegetables and herbs… This, of course, isn’t to say that I shun the world of technology at all! I love my laptop, I shoot digital photography, I eat store-bought foods and wear store-bought clothes. I just find that understanding the origins of my consumables helps me feel more grounded, more connected to the world around me, and imparts a greater feeling of gratitude for the things I do have.
My new project for the day? I’m drying some of my basil! I’ll be back tomorrow or the next day with how that turns out!