It is not just Georgia where fantastic peaches are grown. Here in the Willamette Valley in western Oregon, we get peaches that can’t be beat anywhere in the world. And I have to say that, as with all foods, a large part of peaches’ deliciousness is in how they are served, and the way I like them best is still on the tree.
I have been u-picking peaches at Oregon farms since I was a little girl, and my mom and I still go out to Sauvie Island and pick on those wonderfully perfect days in August. What I love most is when you pick on a really hot day – you climb a ladder to get to the peaches which are lying on the very top of the tree, the hot sun fully on them all day long. You pick one and – don’t hand it down to the partner on the ground! Take a great big bite. It is warm, and sweet, and deliciously juicy; just like a peach pie, only as fresh as you can possibly get.
Layer over this experience a camping trip along a big river, and you have an idyllic summertime memory. On several occasions we found ourselves camping next to a u-pick peach orchard along the Columbia River. We got our boxes from the orchard office, chose our tree, and picked in the hot summer sun, eating as many peaches as we could, then went swimming in the river the rest of the hot afternoon until the sun went down below the hills. That’s unforgettable.
Mom and I have been canning peaches for just about forever, but it was just this year that I discovered this new recipe for preserved peaches. The difference is the spices, and that you put them up whole so the flavor of the pit diffuses throughout the jar, adding more and more rich flavoring as long as it remains unopened.
9 pounds of ripe, firm peaches, not over-ripe
3 pounds sugar
2 cups water
2 sticks cinnamon
8 allspice berries
2 tsp candied ginger
Start with peaches at room temperature if possible to help things go quickly. Can these peaches whole so the stone remains – it provides rich flavor. Bring a large pot of water to a full rolling boil, then place peaches into the pot. After two minutes, take them out with a slotted spoon. The skin will peel off easily. Once they are peeled, drop them in cold water to keep their color. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, water, cinnamon sticks, allspice, and ginger. Bring to a boil and simmer until the sugar dissolves (about 15 minutes).
Remove the peaches from the water and place them, whole, into the simmering syrup. Allow to cook for about two minutes, then remove and place into a canning jar. Be sure to work quickly so temperatures do not drop. Strain the syrup, then pour, boiling, into each jar until it is filled to 3/8 from the top.
Wipe jar rims with a clean, damp paper towel. Immediately put lids on and screw down tightly. Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes. Yields 8 pints, or about 16 preserved peaches.
• pint canning jars
• 6 or 8 quart cook pot
• large slotted spoon
• rubber spatula
• very large pot for sterilizing the jars
• rubber gloves
• clean paper towels cut into small squares
To sterilize your equipment: Use rubber gloves to protect your hands from the heat – makes the job much easier. Fill a pan with hot water and put both parts of the screwcaps into it; simmer for at least 10 minutes. Wash the jars, fill a very large pot with hot water and immerse the jars in it. Bring to a boil, and simmer for at least ten minutes; keep in the water until ready to fill.