Sunday, September 20, 2009

Peaches to Die For

Last year -- in August -- I discovered the peaches of Legend Hills Orchard at the Bexley Farmer's Market. Eating those peaches was as close to a religious experience you can have outside of a fox hole. My Louisville friend Mary agreed. We each bought our own pecks before heading to the B uckeye game. The next week, I drove all the way to Utica -- and did not stop for ice cream -- just to buy a peck of those peaches and can them. I even saved the pits and tried to grow my own tree this Spring. Why? I put them on my morning oatmeal (or when I'm feeling self-indulgent in the evenings) and ran out before New Year's.

Imagine my horror when I discovered in late July that the Licking County Peach crop had been wiped out with our early Spring and regular frost. I had planned a mid-August peach picking trip for the Stoddart Avenue Gardeners, had invited the youth group from nearby St. Luke's Baptist Church to join us (and planned to invite the lady knitwits from my church) and had to cancel because there were no reasonably local peaches to pick (at $19/bushel -- a bargain). However, Jacquamin Farms -- also at the Bexley Farmer's Market - bought peaches from a farm in Chillecothe that did not lose their peach crop. Beth and I drove down in July, bought a peck and a half and made jam and fuzzy-naval marmalade and canned them. However, although I felt good about buying local, these peaches were not the religious experience I had come to expect. We were also deprived of the whole u-pick experience.

Well, pardon my ignorance, but there are a lot of varieties of peaches. I couldn't even begin to list them all.

On Friday, in my monthly study, the ladies began discussing the peaches and apples they had bought a week earlier at Lynds. I've lived in Central Ohio for almost 15 years and have never been to Lynds. It's hard to believe, but true. I was told these peaches were so good, Joy's husband ate them before she could can them. (Yes, I'm still getting over the shock of the thought of Joy in the kitchen;) These were peaches I simply must have. They assured me that Lynds also sold seconds (i.e., flawed, bruised and older peaches).

On Saturday, I drove and bought a peck of seconds (for $7) and a 1/2 peck (for $8) of their best yellow freestone peaches (as well as a few of those freakishly expensive honeycrisp apples since the girls had been raving about those as well). Oh nirvana. These are amazing peaches. It should be criminal to sell peaches other than these. They cannot be bought at a mere grocery store. They are juicy to a fault and will prompt you to forget every other peach you've ever eaten.

I canned 11 pints of peaches on Saturday and Sunday, froze 1-1/2 quarts of peaches (to use in smooties) and still have 8 peaches left. Oh joy. What to do with them in the brief time I have in the evenings . . . eat them . . . can them . . . freeze them . . . . stare at them . . . . more fuzzy naval marmalade . . . . give two of them to Beth and Mike who are too busy starting at 8-day old Lucy Grace to go to Lynds for themselves? Maybe IcedTea Latte would like one . . . .

Now, unlike other canners, I do not make a sugar syrup for my peaches. I freeze them straight on cookie sheets and put them in freezer bags. For my mason jars, I squeeze a tablespoon of honey into each jar (before filling the nooks and crannies with scalding water from my tea kettle). Processing peaches is a lot like processing tomatoes, except that you have to cut them in half, remove the pits, and then drop them in a bowl of water (where I have previously dissolved a large vitamin C tablet (also known as asorbic acid) which keeps the peaches from turning brown before you eat them).

Unlike last year and even this July, I managed to avoid turning my kitchen into a haven for fruit flies. I left the peck of seconds outside on the patio table (because it was not too hot). I also tossed the pits in my trash can and the skins into my compost pile as soon as the jars began boiling.

As for my hopes of starting a peach orchard at the SACG, my peach pits never sprouted (even if my lease permitted it). Bummer. I guess I could try again with this new batch. Mary, however, had more luck. She won a raffle at a church bazaar in Louisville. The prize was from an urban farming group which plants fruit trees in people's yards and then lets them keep a portion of the fruit ( -- nice of them --) while the rest goes to sustain their urban farms and food pantries. Last I heard, she was considering a peach tree. Note to Mary: make sure it's a yellow freestone peach tree.

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