Savoring fresh summer peaches

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By: Rachel Shenk

Rachel Shenk

Roundabout this time in early August, I start to look for peaches. Even though winter is a long way off, we know that we will want peaches on our pantry shelf.

I love to eat them fresh, biting into the sweet flesh and letting the juice drip down my hand. Or baking them into a pie to share with friends. Or using them in a crumble to take on a summer’s eve picnic.

But what I am looking for is a bushel or two of the best peaches to put up and can.

Out in the country, I find what I want: nice, firm fruit with lovely flavor and juiciness.

Now it’s time to plan the canning marathon. Plenty of canning jars, check. Enough lids and rings to go around, check. I also make sure I have sugar and vinegar to spare and a free evening ahead of me. The last few years, my mother has volunteered to come and help, so I call her to see if she is able and willing.

We are ready. My mother and I slowly halve, pit and peel each peach. Bit by bit, we empty the boxes, and we fill the bowls. As we work, we chat about our lives and catch up on the latest family news. We eat some slices here and there and get our fill of peaches.

Meanwhile, Jim preps the glass jars and heats the water in the canner. He has an assembly line going. He drops the peach halves into the jars and pours the hot syrup not quite to the top. Wipe the jar rims, tighten the rings.

Soon the jars go into their hot water bath and the steam rises into the air. Our hands are sticky from the sweet fruit. My bare feet also stick a little to the floor.

As the evening goes on, jars go in, and jars come out, gleaming gold. Rows of jars stand, plinking as they cool. It looks like we will have a good amount. This will be our treasure stored up for the winter. When the cold wind blows and snow nestles against our door, we will open one of those jars and remember summer’s plenty as we taste those first bites.

But for now, with the few remaining peaches, it’s crumble time. Here’s my most recent favorite recipe. I like to throw in a few blueberries since they are also in season right now.

What are you putting up for the winter?

Peach and blueberry crumble with orange and crystallized ginger

Streusel:

  • 1 1/3 c. flour
  • 1 c. brown sugar, packed
  • 1 t. nutmeg
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 6 T. butter, softened

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the butter and mix in with a fork.

Filling:

  • 1/2 c. cornstarch
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
  • 6 T. crystallized ginger, chopped
  • 1 T. orange rind, grated
  • 1 T. lemon rind, grated
  • 1 c. orange juice
  • 6 c. peaches, peeled and slice
  • 2 c. blueberries

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add rinds and orange juice until smooth. Then add fruit.
  3. Pour into a rectangular baking dish. Top with streusel.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes then turn. Bake for another 10 to 20 minutes, until it’s nicely bubbling.
  5. Let cool and set before serving.
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