Whenever I engage in domesticities such as canning, I refer to my bible, The Encyclopedia of Country Living. As I’ve noted in this blog, most recently when I canned apricots, I love its author, Carla Emery. And sometimes, love means you can tell someone to go jump in a lake.
I’m not someone who particularly enjoys process. So, just like e.e. cummings talked about the joy of “having written,” when I talk about the joy of canning peaches I am talking about the joy of having canned peaches. The act itself involves anxiety, minor burns, and swearing. I work really hard not to cut myself.
I put in an order with a local farmer for peaches a month or so ago, and they were finally ready on Thursday. I picked up my lug, and yesterday loaded my dishwasher with jars and set everything up: vat of boiling water, cutting board, steam canner. I consulted The Encyclopedia of Country Living, which had Carla’s instructions as well as my notes from past years about how many jars I’d used.
Carla wrote: “If you’re slow you can drop the fruit into water containing 2 T. each salt and vinegar per gallon water to prevent darkening. But I just work fast.” I filled another vat with water.
I was careful to buy freestone peaches so I wouldn’t have to deal with the stones sticking into the fruit. However, the peaches were just slightly underripe. Unlike Carla, who was a full-time back-to-the-land homemaker and could can her peaches at the exact right time, I have a schedule, and that schedule allowed me to can on Saturday. Not Wednesday, when the peaches would have been ready. By next week, they’d be too far gone. Now or never.
The result was that only a few of them separated the way they were supposed to. Mostly, I had to cut around the stone, which had stuck in one of the two halves, and then dig it out with a spoon. Even though I doused the peaches in boiling water, the skins only sort-of peeled off. Mostly I had to peel them with a paring knife. This was fussy.
“I just work fast,” Carla said. Go jump in a lake, Carla.
It was a good thing I had prepared the vinegar-salt water.
But, as with any problem, if you keep working at it you’ll eventually lick it. And I did. And my February-self will thank me!