Canning fruits and vegetables is a yearly ritual that preserves summer’s hard work. The abundance of tomatoes is transformed into salsa, spaghetti sauce, stewed tomatoes, and even tomato jelly. Green beans and corn will be ready for the delicious winter recipes. Cucumbers are made into pickles and apples, peaches, and cherries wait to be made into luscious deserts.
The kitchen is a hub of activity. New seals have been purchased, the equipment is brought out of storage, and the garage holds more fruits and vegetables than vehicles. Family and friends stop by to help with that day’s canning activities. The house is filled with the aromas of harvest and kids enjoy a day of playing with other kids instead of fighting with their siblings or being made to help in the kitchen.
That memories that canning brings back. Except they are not my memories. My mom never canned anything. I did help a friend make a batch of salsa last year – it was delicious. We blanched, peeled, and chopped tomatoes. We also chopped onions, green peppers, and jalapeños. And not just a couple of each – a lot of each especially those tomatoes. It was so much fun – maybe because of the wine coolers but still. That is my one and only experience with canning.
My dad loved peaches and I mean he really loved peaches. He could eat peaches every night. Sometimes he put them over a bowl of vanilla ice cream, sometimes he just ate a bowl of peaches, and sometimes you couldn’t imagine what he mixed with his peaches. Every fall my parents and I made a trip to southwest Michigan on a Saturday morning. I don’t remember if we always went to the same place but we bought bushels and bushels (about 15) of peaches. We loaded them in the back of our pick-up truck for the long drive home Saturday night.
On Sunday morning, the assembly line was set up while we all prepared for a day of our version of canning peaches. We actually only froze them in quart containers. My mom would take a few peaches from the bushel and blanch them for one minute. She would then put them in sink filled with cold water to stop the cooking process. After another minute or so, I would take the peaches out of the water, cut them in half, peel off the skin, take out the pit, and put them in a large bowl. My dad would then slice the peaches into a quart container, sprinkle ‘Fruit Fresh’ preservative on them, secure the lid, and stack for transport to the freezer.
When I finally cut, peeled, and de-pitted the last peach, I was sore and tired, my fingers were wrinkled worse than my grandma’s, and the front of my shirt was soaked with peach juice. After a few batches of peaches, the cold water warmed so that the peaches I was cutting were still warm. They tasted so good. They were ripe, juicy, and warm. They were the best thing I had ever tasted. Yes, I ate more than my fill of peaches during the day.
This annual ritual is one of my fondest memories of my childhood. Yeah, there are plenty of memories that were out of this world, but this one is more of the comfort and contentment than anything else. The family time, the bonding, the familiarity of the annual tradition, and eating those warm peaches is what puts this memory high on the fondness list. I often thought I would buy some peaches, blanch them so I could eat them still warm. I never have. Maybe because it is part of tradition that has been lost, something I only did with my parents. Maybe I should start a new tradition. Maybe.