Eldest has a list of things she feels Must be Done before she goes away to college in a year. And the first is:
- Can peaches with Mom to take to college next fall.
And why peaches?
Why can them?
It's not like we bottle fruit religiously around here. Every other year usually. Usually, applesauce and tomatoes. Lately, tomato paste balls in olive oil stored in the fridge.
Dried pears because the boughten ones are almost always sulphured.
Grape juice as we run out of it, when I also make grape & red wine vinegar jelly. And there are still jars of catsup and salsa down in the basement from a year or so ago.
Once in a blue moon, apricot jam. I used to make raspberry freezer jam but decided that was gilding the lily and so just freeze rasp- and blueberries naked these days (yes, of course I mean the berries - why do you ask?)
Fresh fruit is better nutrition by far. Bottled peaches are for me no necessity nor staple, but more a ready-made dessert, lucious in a light syrup half-honey/half-sugar, ready to keep company with hot tapioca or honey custard freckled with nutmeg.
Okay, there's a reason right there for canning peaches.
But,"Why?" I ask my daughter.
"I just think I can face anything if I have home-canned peaches under my bed."
That's good enough for me.
Eldest and I have canned peaches together before. In fact, a few years back she asked me to teach her how. I'd done it twice, I think, before. We pulled out our trusty Ball's Blue Book. Its pages warped with steam and sticky with syrups. And stood beside each other for an hour or two, talking, skinning and slicing ripe peaches, rubbing each other's shoulders.
I remember how it was standing for hours next to my mother - jabbering away at her while dipping the fruit in scalding water, fishing it out, easing the hot fruit into a sink of cold water, slipping the skins off, halving, quartering, filling the boiled jars with lovely fruit, lowering the rack full of heavy jars into the bubbling hot water bath, reaching in with the tongs to lift each bottle, setting it down with its sisters on a heavy towel, and then waiting for the plink as each lid sealed. My mom used to bottle bushel baskets and boxes after boxes - peaches, cherries, applesauce, pears - until I was eleven and we moved away from the orchards of the Intermountain West where it made some kind of sense to spend the time and money to can your own.
When I came back to that region of the world as a college student I assured my roommates one Saturday there were orchards - yes, very close-by, loads of them. We borrowed a car and drove. Past strip malls and gargantuan malls. Past developments of identical houses. And more developments. Industrial parks. Medical plazas. More housing developments.
"Is that enough?" I ask my daughter.
We've put the peaches in pint jars. They hold just over one peach each.
"Yeh, I just need to have a few. Like if I'm ever homesick."
They're letting such babies into colleges these days.
"Well, I've still got more peaches." And what am I going to do with them all?
"The rest of us like peaches, too, you know," says Fritz.