It is not a pleasant place to be.
Peaches have such a great reputation, too: “Peaches ‘n Cream”, “Life is just peachy”, “Life is just a bowl of peaches” (oh wait, that’s cherries).
I do like peaches, I really do. I have memories of squatting by the kiddie pool at our Maytown house, biting into the fuzzy fruit, juice dripping down my chin, elbows, knees (we were by the kiddie pool for a reason). Peach jam, peach tart with mounds of whipped cream, canned peaches spooned over granola, homemade vanilla ice cream with frozen, mashed, sugared peaches—it’s all very good. But that’s just the eating part. Putting them up is a different story.
Peaches have a nasty tradition of confounding me. First of all, it can be tricky to get the peaches to surrender up their pits. The peaches have to be perfectly ripened and not at all mushy. (If they are still green, I have to stab the peach with my knife, and, using all the strength that I can muster up in my fingers and wrists, attempt to pry the rock-hard, woody, rough pit out of the peach. I often end up bruising my knuckles on the pit or on the sides of the kitchen sink because my hands spastically fly apart when the pit finally does fall free. Then I come very close to screaming curses. If the peaches are at all mushy, then I just have a bunch of mush, which, while not very appealing, has the ability to be jammed.)
Second, peaches have the ability to rot quickly. This is something I still have not learned, though you’d think I’d have learned my lesson after the Peach Disaster of 2001 (or was is 2002?). That year, Mr. Handsome and I put up a pile of peaches, to the tune of about 50 quarts. This was also the year that my generous mother-in-law gave us the outdoor cookstove from Lehman’s Hardware. The stove had two, very powerful burners and we zipped along cheerily, turning out dozens of jars filled with golden peach slices. But, over the course of the next several days, our jars of peaches began to unseal. Pop. Pop. Pop. We were stunned and dismayed. We put the jars in the fridge, planning to re-can them, but it didn’t happen because when we opened the lids and took a sniff, we realized the peaches were already rotting. We dumped them down the garbage disposal, instead—glub, glub, glub—about 40 quarts of peaches slithering down the drain.
Talk about depressing.
(The reason for the unsealing was that the heavy-duty cookstove heated up the canner water extremely quickly, but the jarred peaches didn’t heat up as fast, so the fruit never reached the proper temperature. We still use the cookstove, but we can over medium heat, and then leave the fruit in the canner for a few extra minutes, just to be sure.)
What happened this morning isn’t nearly as bad, but it still made me fume. Last night I washed, peeled, and sliced up a big bowl of beautiful peaches (no bruised knuckles that time) and put the slices on the dehydrator trays. I ran the dehydrator (another gift from my generous mother-in-law) for several hours, but I turned it off before I went to bed because the dehydrator is quite powerful (I think there may be a connection between my mother-in-law and powerful presents) and I didn’t want the peaches to be cornflakes come morning. However, when I came down this morning and turned the dehydrator back on, I got a nauseating wiff of rotten peaches. So the chickens got the peaches, instead. In retrospect, cornflake peaches would’ve been just fine.
I have more peaches to do up, and I plan on buying some more bushels over the next several weeks, so I suppose the good news is that I will have lots of chances to work out the kinks and get really good at preserving peaches sans rotting. I hope I remember everything I learn by next August when it comes time to sink into the sink with the peach pits yet again (that didn’t really make sense, but I like how it sounded).
Life will be peachy… once all the peaches are canned.