It is ripe delicious peach season. As I was confined indoors yesterday by the excessive heat and humidity, with a tired and healing old dog and a bored rambunctious puppy, it became obvious that I needed to decide what to do with my four quickly ripening peaches. It was then the memories of canning peaches with my grandmother and mother in the small kitchen of the big farm house came flooding back.
Our canning peaches always came in wooden crates and we would use the same small metal pry bar that was used to open paint cans to slowly stretch out the nails embedded in the soft wooden boards until with a squeak and a pop the thin top boards sprang open.
Each peach in that crate came wrapped in a square sheet of either pastel green or pink colored tissue paper. It was the job of the small helpers to take those papers off and properly discard them.
The naked picture perfect peaches were then washed in the right side of the kitchen’s stainless steel double sink. Once cleaned, they were gently lowered into hot boiling water to be fished out with a huge slotted spoon a few seconds later. The once visually lovely fruit rose out of the boiling water tattered looking with skin curling up and peeling off similar to the effect of a bad sunburn.
Into the clean ice cold well water in the left side of the double sink the blanched peaches would go. This was the fun part, rubbing wet hands over those slippery peaches to remove their skins was like a slip and slid for the fingers.
Once the peach’s skin was removed, the fruit was placed into a large colander. Next an age-appropriate-knife-work-approved individual would then halve the peaches by cutting right down their butt crease. The pit was then removed.
The peach halves were put into a large bowl on the kitchen table where many little hands took them and gently shoved them into sparkling clean sterilized quart jars. When you thought you had enough peaches in your jar, one of the ladies would inspect your work.
Jar filling was always a pass/fail operation. If you failed you would add the extra peaches as instructed. If you passed, your jar would be sent to the next work station.
This work station was always manned by an adult, because of burn dangers. It was here that boiling hot sugar water would be poured over the peaches until there was about an inch of space at the top of the jar. A clean damp white flour sack towel, with a hand embroidered design, would be used to clean off the rim of the jar. Only then would a lid be securely screwed on the jar.
About six large quart jars filled with the golden fruit would go into the boiling water bath in the big white speckled navy blue canner. Once the jars were sealed in the canner, they were removed and set to cool.
Once cool, the jars filled with brightly orange-colored peach halves with their scarlet centers were ready to be carried down the rickety wooden stairs to be stored on century old shelves in the cool basement with the many other home-canned jars of produce that would feed our family until the next summer.
After mentally reliving the peach canning experience of my youth, I realized how grateful I am for two things. The experience itself, for there are no commercially canned peaches that have ever or will ever come close to the flavor of those home-processed peaches, and air conditioning.
Fresh Peach Oven Pancakes
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 cups thinly sliced peaches
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Put a 9 X 13 cake pan into the oven to get hot.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl beat eggs with flour, salt and milk for about a minute. Set aside.
In a small bowl combine sugar and cinnamon.
Carefully remove hot pan from the oven. Pour melted butter into the pan and rotate to coat bottom and sides.
Arrange peach slices in the bottom of the pan. Pour batter over the peaches. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.
Remove from oven, dust with powdered sugar and serve hot with maple syrup.
Yield: 4 servings.