From Liz Clark comes a true story. The names might have been changed. Liz is a great friend and a true lover of canned peaches. She has a whole section about it in her book, “Lessons from the Hog House.” Pick up a copy at Amazon.
— Sue Lange
August in Memphis defines oppressive. Donna and I melted into the back seat of the cab headed for the airport. Just completed three days of brutal negotiations with a couple of “good ol’ boys” from an equipment manufacturing company. Day one it was ‘Sweetheart” and “Dahlin,” day two it was “Ms. Clark and Ms. Katz,” and today it was “YOU PEOPLE.” We left with great pricing, an iron clad delivery schedule, and T and C’s to die for.
“What are your plans for this weekend?” Asked Donna.
“Me too, garden is exploding with tomatos and the peaches are in.”
With that the cab driver swerved across two lanes of rush hour traffic and came to a screeching halt at the side of the road. He turned around, threw his arm around the back of his seat to get a better look at us and said, “You ladies are canners?” We nodded slowly.“I mean like, you preserve food, like you don’t need refrigerators or anything?”
“Actually, we use jars…..”
“Canners! You still exist! I thought you might.” He was pretty jazzed up at this point. “You will be the only ones who know how to survive after the apocalypse, your knowledge will save all of us!”
Who knew the post apocalyptic world will be ruled by a bunch of middle aged, plump-armed Ladies of the Grange?
Like my friend Ann and I. We dedicate one weekend in the peak of the short Peach Season to marathon canning. It starts at seven am with jam making. Large black enamel canning pots have been on the stove since six and are now happily steaming away. We take turns blanching the peaches to gingerly remove the skins and cut the peaches in chunks for jam. Then add sugar and pectin, stir to a “rolling boil” before pouring the molten mixture into decorative jars to present to friends and family.
Next it’s on to the easiest part of the day, canned peach halves in a light syrup. By this time it’s around nine, and having worked hard for a few hours, we open a bottle of Chardonnay to celebrate hearing the distinctive “click” of two dozen pints of peaches being successfully canned and sealed.
The steam from the canners starts to loosen the kitchen wallpaper.
It’s Chutney time! We take out the “cauldron.” Into it go chunks of peaches, brown sugar, garlic, mustard seed, cloves, ginger, vinegar, red hot peppers (just one!), and chopped onions. The onions make us cry. We console ourselves with Chardonnay while the chutney boils in the canning bath.
Inspired by our success and with half a bushel of peaches left, we pull out the “Peach Brandy” recipe from the St. Andrews Ladies of the Auxiliary Cook Book. We fill quart sized canning jars with alternating layers of peaches and sugar, press out as much air as possible and screw down the lids. Then we grab a shovel and pick ax and find an easy to remember spot in the back yard where we place the jars in brown paper bags and plant them eighteen inches deep. We toast our success, confident that as Thanksgiving approaches the earth will yield it’s bounty!