There is nothing more delicious than fresh, local summer fruit. I love going to farmer’s markets or our neighbourhood produce stand and getting whatever is in season. Right now, it happens to be freestone peach time.
Last year, I realized one of my dreams of canning my own fruits (peaches, nectarines, pears and apple sauce) and making my own baby food. And when my little one progressed beyond purees we enjoyed those delicious summer peaches and autumn pears all year round… until they ran out. On multiple occasions they saved me when I hadn’t done groceries and still wanted yummy fruit for my family.
This year, I decided I wanted to do it again. I thought it would be much easier because I didn’t have a little baby who might wake up at any moment. I made plans to spend an evening after bedtime patiently working on my peaches. But what I didn’t take into account was that this year I would be doing it all by myself, when I usually have my amazing mama (or in Seattle, my amazing neighbour) by my side to create our own little canning assembly line.
I did everything right. I bought the peaches but waited a few days for them to ripen. I split up the work, gathering all the jars and lids and washing them the night before. I set up my own little assembly line (of one) with a bowl of hot water, a bowl of cold water and a bowl of colour protection solution.
As I was peeling and slicing peaches, I was thinking to myself, “this would make a great blog post”. Peeling peaches is one of the most satisfying things to do. If you are the type of person who likes to pick at nailpolish or paint, or hangnails, or anything else… slipping the skin off a peach might just be your new favourite activity. And having cans of fruit or jam or pickles or salsa or anything else up on your shelf is so satisfying, not to mention eating those delicious things in the middle of winter.
I decide to use big jars because right now, our not-so-little 17 month old son is eating like a teenager. Who needs small jars that he’ll eat in one sitting! I figured I’ll just make bigger jars and fit more peaches into each jar.
Here is a video of Ari using his new favourite word to tell us what he thinks of broccoli
After all the right steps of scoring peaches, putting them in hot water then icy cold water then peeling and slicing, then soaking in the colour protection mixture, and then layering every piece carefully with the cavity side down, ladling hot syrup into the jars, wiping the tops of the jars clean and placing into a boiling water bath, I prepare myself to sit back and wait. This is the great part where all your hard work is done and you just wait until it’s time to take the jars out, and you hope that you’ll hear that magical popping sound that means the jar has sealed.
But it didn’t go that way for me this time. In the first batch, one jar broke. The bottom of the jar broke clean off (side note: this happened one time to my sister Tamara when she was about to enjoy a patio beer and it was hilarious… for me, but this wasn’t hilarious at all). I was devastated. I collected myself, went through another round and the same exact thing happened. Peaches floating like dead bodies in the pot.
Bottomless glasses, and not in the good way
I forgot to mention that in my delusional selective memories about how smoothly this went last year, I also thought “I remember this being easy, so I might as well make nectarines too while I’m at it.” Admittedly, nectarines are great because you don’t even have to peel them, and they were Ari’s favourite last year. And I only bought one basket so it would be easy peasy. But at this point it was approaching 10pm (which is past my bedtime) and I was trying to keep it together but I was exhausted, disappointed, frustrated, sad…
To put things in perspective, when it’s all said and done I did have a good success rate and have lots of peaches in jars that didn’t break to enjoy throughout the year and be proud of. It really sucks that all those delicious broken-glass peaches were ruined and that some of my hard work was wasted, but that part is out of my control and what’s done is done so there is really no use beating myself up about it.
But here’s where the real “aha” moment came in. When I finally finished everything (even the nectarines), cleaned up, and headed home (because for some reason I thought this would be easier in my parents’ kitchen), in the car I suddenly realized that it was perfectly okay to feel the way that I felt. It sucks, it’s sad and disappointing and it’s also okay to feel sad and disappointed about it. I don’t need to berate myself for feeling negative feelings. Those were totally appropriate feelings. Even if they weren’t, I’m entitled to feel the way I feel. And suddenly the feelings lost all their power and passed.
I have had this realization in the past. I have lots of reference points for accepting my feelings. My therapist in Seattle used to say that “all of the feelings get a seat at the table”… the movie “Inside Out” in all its adorableness taught us that sadness and all other feelings are important in shaping who we are, and it’s not realistic to expect to feel joyful all the time. But this was the first time I actually caught myself in the middle of experiencing that feeling and labelled it.
Just 2 days ago, one of my favourite sites, Tiny Buddha, posted this quote: “You don’t have to be positive all the time. It’s perfectly okay to feel sad, angry, annoyed, frustrated, scared, or anxious. Having feelings doesn’t make you a ‘negative person’. It makes you human.” – Lori Deschene
In other words, life isn’t always peachy!
The next time I start to beat myself up about feeling a certain way that I would rather not feel, an unpleasant feeling, I am going to try to think of peaches and remember this lesson.
Instructions for canning peaches & nectarines
*mostly adapted from the Bernardin Guide to Home Preserving
- Buy peaches (or nectarines) and wait for them to ripen. Make sure they’re freestone peaches to make your life easier.
- Wash jars and place in the oven at 200 degrees to sterilize. Place lids in a bowl of hot water. Keep hot until ready to use (note: this may be where I went wrong because the pace was a bit slower than I was used to when doing this with a partner vs. alone)
- Set large canning pot to boil.
- Prepare syrup. I used their Ultra Light recipe which is 1/2 cup of sugar to 5 cups of water. Boil them together to dissolve the sugar and keep hot.
- Prepare a bowl of colour protection solution by mixing 1/4 cup of bottled lemon juice and 4 cups of water.
- Score the peaches by scratching a little “x” on the bottom. Blanch peaches in boiling water for 30-60 seconds. Dip quickly into ice cold water and slip off the skins. Enjoy how satisfying that is. (For nectarines, no need to remove the skins. Just wash and drain).
- Cut the fruit (their recipe calls for cutting it in half, but I like to cut it in quarters or eighths to fit more into each jar) and place into colour protecting solution.
- Pack the fruit cavity side down, overlapping layers into hot jars. Ladle hot syrup over fruit, ensuring at least 1/2″ headspace. (This may also be where I went wrong because I was a little overzealous on the filling)
- Take a clean damp cloth or paper towel and wipe the rims of the jars before putting the lids on, only 3-finger tight! Important not to overtighten (which in my post-mortem analysis I realize I may have done)!
- Place jars in canner and boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars, place on the counter and listen for the satisfying “pop” sound that means you have a seal. Don’t panic if this doesn’t happen right away, although it probably will. Once out of the pot, avoid touching the jars for at least 24 hours