Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Canned peaches - what not to do and still get 'em

Again with the local peaches, and Bernardin recipes. We bought some yummy local peaches from the Annapolis Valley at Bob and the Boys along Highway 103, exit 14. Bob and the Boys is a great fresh produce store, open long hours and a long season. We spied these local peaches and knew it was now or never. We bought 20, 10 for the fruit cocktail and 10 for canned peaches. We knew we would run short but there were only 20 peaches left. The Ontario peaches were in and we could have bought the remaining 10 peaches right then, but, like fools, we decided we would try and get local peaches in Halifax instead of taking advantage of the Ontario peaches right in front of us.

Steve boiled the peaches and skinned them and cut them up into lovely slices. I ground up the two Vitamin C tablets and added them to water and poured them over the peaches so they wouldn't turn brown. They didn't.

We paused and put all the garden furniture and potted plants BACK into the shed and garage because Hurricane Dan was following Hurricane Bill and since we have survived Hurricane Juan in 2003 (?) (it was a blur), we knew measures needed to be taken to prevent property damage.

Steve measured the cut peaches and we were 4 cups short of the amount needed. Pause to help daughter move stuff into her first apartment. Attempt to get to grocery store to buy more peaches. Hurricane Dan arrives in the form a tropical storm. Still, tons of water pouring out of the sky. Not enough peaches so we do other things. Return to helping daughter, this time with a drill and tool kit. Watch Steve responds to the looks of misery from the other kids as they can't build dressers or hang shelves. This time get to the grocery store. Stand in front of peaches and curse. One group of peaches from Mexico, another group of peaches from United States. No offense, but these aren't local. Not by a measure of a continent. No Ontario peaches. Why not, one wonders? They are just over one as a neighbour and are as close to local as Nova Scotia gets for some products. Still, this is not the time to ponder the ongoing negative brain power of this local supermarket. I choose..... United States peaches, because if I don't the whole canned peaches plan will go into the compost. The fruit is now half local, half foreign. The flavour of quioxite.

Back to the kitchen, Steve does his boiling peaches magic and voila, naked, sliced peaches. Stop. Time to go sailing. Yes sailing. The winds and waves have died down, the weather buoy at the mouth of the harbour has the waves at only 3 metres and we call the people we promised a sail to and off we go. Sailing is a whole other topic to which I will return one day. Sailing, sailing, over the deep blue seas... Stop. Phone call from distraught son. Distraught girlfriend in the background. The apartment they are moving into, after huge amounts of physical work already invested in getting out of their two old apartments, is not in suitable condition. Can they move in with us? Well really, they are calling from in front of our television, they just want us to know their day is hell, and they are in our home. For a while.

We arrive home, rather beaten by the winds and waves and lack of toilet paper to use the potty with and lo.... amongst the suitcases and shoes are 8 rolls of toilet paper. Too much, too late, wrong place. Listen to kids, offer soothing sounds and crawl into bed. Peaches languish in their vitamin C.

Sleep but not too much. Students are moving house all over the city and did you every watch “The Aristocats” by Walt Disney and the gang? Do you recall the scene where all the alley cats are on the fence and some noisy cat is playing the piano in an attic. That is Halifax in the first week or two of September. Quality of sound not comparable.

Up the next morning, work clothes on and we are underway. Sort of. Because I am utterly distractable. What should have taken an hour has concluded, finally, after three. The peaches are cleaned and ready to go. I wash the jars, and sterilize the lids and slip the jars into the oven to sterilize. I read the recipe. I notice that I need to make a syrup. Make the syrup and take the sterilized lids off the burner. Get the water bath going, take the nice clean jars out of the oven, probably too early but I am not following sequence well. The syrup has boiled and I'm about to roll along when ALL OF A SUDDEN, I notice I have sterilized the wrong sized jars. I don't need the 500 ml. jars, I need the 250 ml. jars. I backtrack and do the jar thing again. Turn the hot water bath down, because I am nowhere near ready.

Now I have to wait 15 minutes for the jars to be sterilized, so I start to write. This is what I was thinking about:
Things to have on hand when canning : 1) A wide mouth jar filler upper thing. This is not to be underestimated. It prevents tons of spillage, it prevents scalded fingers and it can be used all season long. 2) a collection of yucky tea towels. The ones that look awful but are clean to assist with cleaning up messes, not wrecking good tea towels and drying your hands on, over and over. 3) a second large pot. A biggy! You need one for the hot water bath process but you also need one for processing the fruit. Some fruit goes in uncooked, but most doesn't.

Beep, beep, beep, the timer is going and the jars are done. I carefully put the fruit into the jars and am about to ladle the syrup into the jars, all the while thinking about the issues around a second big pot. How to write about this in an interesting way? I stop and stare at my jars, looking lovely I might add, when I realize I have overlooked the processing the fruit step. Pour the whole mess back into the Second Large Pot and boil her up. Then ladle it all into the jars, top up with liquid, get rid of air bubbles and immerse into water bath. I did bring it back up to a boil and it boiled away merrily for the required 15 minutes. 15 minutes because these are 250 ml jars, remember?

Somewhere I thought I had read that the fruit can be packed into the jars raw (as in unboiled) and then the processing takes place during the hot water bath. But since I didn't have that in front of me in print but only in my unreliable brain, I decided to stick with the fool proof instruction. They haven't failed me yet.

To summarize, Things Gone Wrong: 1) not buying Ontario peaches when I had the chance, 2) Tropical Storm Dan, 3) repairing one kid's desk and shelves during process, 4) repairing strange kid's possessions during process, 5) sailing in the middle of the process, 6) two other kids moving into the house unexpectedly, 7) sterilizing the wrong sized jars, 8) forgetting to process the fruit, 9) Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I had jar's worth of fruit left over and was thinking “wow, that's a lot left over!” when I spied the heading at the top of the recipe that said Yield: SEVEN x 250 ml. jars, as in not 6, 10) grabbing a 7th jar and flinging it into the process willy nilly and not marking it to use as the first jar to open.

Conclusion: Even though there is now one unsterilized jar in the mix, the piece of peach left over was some yummy.

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