12 jars of pickled peaches.
In May, I took a class on hot water bath canning. Becky Calvert, a local canning experts, shared not only her lessons, but some of her pickled goods from seasons past. While the asparagus, green beans, and curry-flavored pickles were all delicious, it was the pickled peaches that stuck with me.
When I saw that peach season had begun here in Virginia, I could not wait to try my hand at this newly-discovered delicacy. Sweet and syrupy, like a canned peach, the pickling process gives these summery fruits a slight spice and “zip”—a delicious little something extra.
And so, on the last Saturday of June, I spent my day pickling peaches. I purchased 15 pounds of must-eat-them-today ripe peaches from an old farmer who gave me a bargain price. At home, I carefully washed and dried the delicate fruits, setting aside a few for immediate eating in the next few days. And then the process began.
While not overly complicated in itself, the pickling process involved many steps, and the sheer quantity of peaches meant that it was a time and labor intensive process. First, drop the peaches into boiling water for 30 seconds, just to loosed the skins. Simultaneously, get the syrup going. Then, peel the peaches and place them in a bowl of vitamin-C infused water, so they don’t turn brown.
I began to develop a rhythm, dropping peaches into the pot, skimming them out, dunking them in ice, stirring the syrup, peeling the peaches, dropping them into a bowl. Peeling was simple, but messy work. The peaches become slippery-slimy as I carefully removed the peels. I underestimated the size of my glass bowls, and quickly found that they were overflowing, splashing peach juice water all over the counters.
With the peaches peeled, I encountered an unexpected challenge—pitting and quartering the fruit. The peaches were hesitant to release from the pit, and so I began to cut less-than-uniform “quarters”, dropping them briefly into the syrup and them into the jars.
Sticky sweet peach juice ran down my arms, onto the counters, cabinets, and floors. The time ticked by as I filled jar after jar, continuing to find a rhythm. Four jars filled, the first batch went into the water bath, as I continued quartering, syruping, and jarring my peaches. After twenty minutes, the first jars were ready to remove, and with nervous anticipation, I awaited the tell-tale “ping!” on a seal correctly formed.
As I continued the process, the first “ping” gave way to three, then eight, then eleven more, all 12 seals tightly formed.
My first adventure in pickling was certainly a learning experience—one that I thoroughly enjoyed, despite the ridiculously large mess that I made—one of my biggest messes ever, which, my mom will be the first to tell you, in no small feat for a messy cook like me.
This is why I cook. The inspiration, the anticipation, the process, the mess, and the joy—the satisfaction of making something with my own two hands, the fun of sharing my experience with others and I recount my tale and share the sticky-sweet fruits of my labors. A summer Saturday well spent.
View the recipe for Pickled Peaches >