Wednesday, August 17, 2011
One of the most anticipated and savoured of Ontario's fruits is the peach. It's a sure sign of the depths of summer. We always look forward to peaches and polishing off a whole basket on a hot day. But this summer is a bit different. Not only are we enjoying them fresh, we're also canning them for the first time. It's always rewarding to eat locally in the middle of february, and we can't wait to pop open a jar of our own canned peaches on some snowy night.
As each different fruit and vegetable ripen in our garden, or in the case of peaches, in our region, we've been thinking of different ways to make them last. So far we've tackled freezing and canning, and we're planning to do some dehydrating and juicing as well.
I've learned a lot about peaches this past week, as it's my first time canning them. I've learned there are two types, freestone and clingstone. A clingstone is a peach that clings to the pit. They're fine for eating, but if you're trying to slice them beautifully and simply for canning they'll tend to break up as you try to cut the tender fruit away from the pit. A freestone, as the name implies, is a peach that separates easily from the pit. This makes it a much easier task to separate the fruit and slice it easily.
We were in the Niagara region this weekend and took a drive down a country road to find a local fruit stand to buy some peaches. When you're canning, the best price is important, but this usually comes at the expense of aesthetic beauty. We asked around and eventually found a stand where they were selling seconds ("firsts" are visually perfect fruit) for fifteen dollars.
They were either wormy or bruised and definitely not pretty when you're used to the perfect fruit of the supermarket. However, once cleaned up and canned you would never know they were once home to some tiny little critters. Also, the promise of these being freestones was a little early. About half of them were, the other half were a bit tricky to prepare.
We always tell our kids that it's a good sign to see a worm hole. If the bugs will eat it, it must be tasty. It's misleading to see perfect, unblemished produce that even the bugs won't touch. If you visit a supermarket, we're being lead to believe that humans are the only thing on the planet that are eating fruit and vegetables.
Click here for a printable pdf of the recipe.
My peaches don't look the prettiest, they are a bit stringy and definitely not in perfect quarters. But I know that when I pull our peaches out in the middle of winter, no one will be complaining!
If you plan to can peaches, now is definitely the time. Scope out your local farmers market for some freestone peaches, and if you want a bargain be sure to ask if they can sell you their "seconds". If they don't have seconds on hand, request a bushel and they just might bring one for you to the following week's market.