It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog and I feel I have to apologize. I wish I could say, “I’ve been away on assignment to a wonderful food destination.” But I can’t. I’ve been around. Truth is, life got in the way: my job, long hours bike riding (I trained for a 2-day charity ride), my elderly mother who fell and broke her nose (fortunately, nothing else), and last, but most distractingly, all the peaches started ripening at once.
There’s an embarrassment of neglected fruit out there in our small garden. From a distance the peaches look perfectly orbital and blush gold and rose--so tempting. Up close though they are misshapen and tattooed by insect trails and black, sticky fungi—not something you’d want to sink your teeth into. Teetering on a ladder and tiddle-di-winking earwigs and ants when the whole world is on vacation is not something I wanted to do in August. Which is why I’ve hesitated going out there and picking them (besides the fact that it’s been 90 degrees and humid everyday for weeks); and why I haven’t simply invited all the neighbors to help themselves which would solve the problem of feeling guilty about watching them ripen and fall off the trees leaving them for the ants to feast on. I would take it personally if neighbors showed-up, took one look, and decided to pass. How could I convince them that despite the peaches hideous demeanor a sweet, juicy reward lies beneath? There’s no way. And besides, the farmers market is right down the street on Sundays and they have perfect peaches, not to mention that all the farms in this Johnny Appleseed county have pick-your-own.
But even as I write this I feel better about those peaches (or maybe it’s the 3 cups of coffee I’ve just consumed). Whatever motivated me, it was TIME TO PICK THE PEACHES.
I covered my head, arms, legs, neck, feet and hands, dragged out the step ladder and picked every single peach on those three “dwarf” trees, ripe or not. I made multiple trips up the steps into the kitchen carrying every basket and bowl I own piled high with peaches. Once all the peaches were off the trees I set up a production line. I had no interest in making pies, or crisps or even freezer jam like we did last year when I had a “helper.” This year, helper hubby took peach season off and went fly-fishing in Labrador. So my goal this year was to simply get all the peaches into a state where they could be frozen and stashed in whatever freezer space I had.
I sorted through the piles of peaches, separating out the ones that were the ripest and worked on those first on Saturday night. So many! Enough to last through both Masterpiece and Deadliest Catch.
The ones that could stand a few more days of ripening I left piled up in bowls on the kitchen table. But no sooner had I turned my back on them when the fruit flies appeared (where DO those critters come from?!), so I set-up a fan blowing hard directly on the ripening fruit. And ripen they did, seemingly by the minute, but the fan kept the flies away and bought me some time before I needed to “process” that batch. Back at the stove, I boiled water and dipped 4 or 5 peaches at a time to loosen the skins. I spidered them out and plunged them into an ice water bath, which quickly became a tepid water bath since I only had 2 ice cubes trays to work with. But it inhibited cooking and cooled them off enough to slip off the skins without too much fuss, and without smushing the fruit beyond recognition. Since every single one of these peaches would be considered a “second,” cosmetic surgery was necessary. With my little paring knife, I erased spots, lifted out worms, carved out the crumbling pits and replaced the transformed and now hideously deformed fruit into bowls, doused them in lemon juice, wrapped the bowls in plastic and banished it all to the basement refrigerator, until tomorrow.
Day 2 It’s tomorrow. I cleaned out an entire drawer section of my refrigerator’s freezer for the peaches. I threw out a plastic bag labeled “2007, for bread crumbs;” a huge white bag labeled “use for chowder” which was a nice try but I knew I’d never get to; and jars of unlabeled brown substance saved from mystery birds—goose? duck? turkey? Who knew. Then I lugged up to the kitchen all the mixing bowls full of skinless, turning-brown peaches. Standing at the cutting board, listening to Tom Ashbrook about Arizona’s contested immigration law, I went through each slippery peach, cutting them in half, some into slices, and picked out the pits. Some peaches were hopeless and I threw many away. I sampled a few and some were delicious, though ugly. I scooped as many slices as would fit into zip-lock bags, shook it around to form a single layer, and slid the bag into the empty freezer drawer. Then repeated the whole process with the rest of the peaches. By the end of the morning, I had about a dozen flat zip-lock bags stacked up in the freezer. Tomorrow, if they haven’t all rotted by then, I’ll do the same to the other peaches I left blowing in the wind on the kitchen table. Everyone tells me it’ll be worth the effort come winter.
Don’t get me wrong, I like peaches, but when it comes to seconds, I prefer our pears.