If polled, I think most people would agree that there isn't much better in life than a perfectly ripe peach. Maybe this is because a perfect peach is so fleeting, the window of perfect eating is gloriously small. Both over and under ripe peaches have their place fortunately, but for that split instant of perfection, one might wait all year.
Because I was raised in a rural, northern Wisconsin, our peaches came in lugs from Michigan or Colorado. My Mom canned quart upon quart to last us a whole year, something she still does and shares with me. It's a lot of work for something that can disappear so quickly - those glass quarts of peaches seem to be everyone's favorite.
I used to just drink the canned peach juice after the peaches were gone, but in the great sugar diet reduction of the past few years, I tried hard to be okay with just ditching it. Then I realized that I could be extending it by boiling the peach juice with ample amounts of ginger and then using it to flavor seltzer or other drinks. I simmer it for 10 minutes or so, with as much finely chopped ginger as I feel like, then let it cool and strain it through a nut milk bag. The summer I worked a little at my friend's cafe, we added some ginger-centric chai concentrate to coffee and were pleasantly surprised (but it was never on the menu). A touch in your coffee is a unique twist that you might end up liking! For me it was a flavor combination that at first seemed weird, but then I all of a sudden craved.
As a kid, it might not have solely been my job to run down to the basement shelves to pick out a jam when we were out upstairs, but it seems like it was. And it also seems like my Mom used certain jars for certain things. I haven't asked her yet, but I feel like the peach jam was always canned in round jars - and I had totally forgotten about this until I was down in my own basement this week wrangling up half pints. I made small batches of Marisa's Salted Peach Jam (recipe in Preserving by the Pint), and just 2 1/2 jars of the Peach-Sriracha Butter I can no longer live without. I canned the jam in round jars. And I thought all the while of how thankful I am for my Mom and her habit of providing me homemade peachy things for pretty much my whole life.
Isn't that was preserving for yourself, you family, and friends is all about? Little glimpses into the past, to remember those days when you put the fruit into jars in the first place, a look back on my own childhood completely full of peanut butter and homemade jam sandwiches and who I ate those sandwiches with? Peaches then are much more than a once a year luxury; they hold some deeply rooted history underneath their fuzzy exteriors...
And speaking of fuzzy exteriors, I made a pie last week without peeling the peaches. This was under advisement of the Bojon Gourmet (Alanna Taylor-Tobin), who is writing her first book. Not peeling peaches for pie is a revelation, and I'm sold! I also can hardly wait to see her finished book that will feature gluten-free baked goods. It should be out next spring, and it's available for pre-order on Amazon.
The past several years, we've had a peach truck delivery at numerous locations in our area. It's called Tree-Ripe Citrus, and you can find Midwest schedules and drop point locations here. Their peaches come from Georgia, and are reliably good. I split a case with my in-laws last Tuesday and Wednesday morning I came into the kitchen to find my eater baby had bitten into 6 of them. Most likely, he was looking for the perfect peach because most of them were rock hard having just been picked. He didn't yet know that he needed to wait and be patiently look them over twice daily, but maybe he somehow knew that in continuous trying he would find that perfect one. The one to drip down all over him and the one that will start him on his way to his own memories of all things peachy.