I’m finding out now, in this first year of really having fresh peaches, that life with a peach tree in fruit is anything but still.
Successfully growing peaches in southern Kentucky is certainly a good reason to celebrate. Our classic hot, humid summers, filled with so much mold and so many pests, are enough reason to forego planting a peach tree altogether, especially if you are opposed to using chemical pesticides and fungicides, as we are. Organically raised peaches are a long shot, even in the most perfect climate. But this year, we have had success. Our single peach tree is young, and we can’t claim any peach growing expertise at this point. But it does seem pretty obvious that favorable growing conditions rule on this one. And it’s been a mighty fine spring. Now, turning the corner into summer, look what we have to behold…We still have issues with the nasty little plum curculio, but the volume of fruit this season must be more than they can mar with their insatiable larvae. In the future, in the many growing seasons to come that will not be so favorable, we have plans of camping some form of bug-eating poultry under the peach tree (trees plural, in the near future) so that they can eat the larvae before they have a chance to travel up the tree to dine on the fruit. But those stories will have to wait till later, for I don’t know them now.
But what I do know quite clearly at this point is that when peaches are ripe, they’re ripe! So you had best figure out what to do with all of that delectable fruit. (Eric can testify that one should refrain from eating too many at one time, lest a mouth sore develop… ahem.) Here’s the beginnings of what we’ve been doing:
Peach jam. But maybe I shouldn’t call it jam. I don’t really follow recipes that much, and we refrain from using sugar as much as possible, so pretty much any recipe that I might find wouldn’t work for us anyhow. So we just peeled and chopped the peaches, removing the pits, and started cooking them down. We added some peeled and minced ginger. And when the jam was pretty thick, we added a little honey and some cinnamon. Then we filled up some jars and processed them in a boiling water bath. (Refer to the Ball Blue Book for more specific canning times, according to what you are processing and what size your jars are.) There was some leftover jam that wouldn’t fit into the canner, so we ate it for breakfast the next morning. We surely didn’t hear any complaints from the children!And as we were tending the jam, lunch time approached. “How about some peach salsa?” asks Eric. I imagine you can guess what everyone’s reply was? A resounding “YEAH!” Promptly, Ira was sent (quite willingly) to the garden to fetch necessary ingredients…And with a little chopping, and lots of sampling, voila! Eric even went so far as to whip up a batch of homemade tortilla chips to accompany our peach salsa. What a fellow! Again, we don’t really follow recipes, but here’s our best guess at what we did for the salsa:Peach Salsa: for every four (kind of) firm peaches, chopped, add (at least) one clove of minced garlic, 1-2 small minced onions, 1-2 small minced hot peppers (habaneros would be my first choice, but ours aren’t ripe yet, so we used the Limon variety. And we like our salsa on the very hot side, so we often add more… but if you want a little pepper flavor without the heat, add some diced sweet pepper), about 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro, a pinch of salt, and a squeeze of lime juice (if you’ve got it on hand). Stir, let stand a couple of minutes for the flavors to mingle (if you can wait!), and totally enjoy! And in addition to freezing several quarts of chopped fruit, and making several peach/berry pies, I couldn’t resist getting a little peach mead fermenting in the crock. I have a hard time justifying using fruit that the children would eat fresh and turning it into something that they can’t have. It just doesn’t seem quite fair to them. So my forgiveness with this batch of mead is that I used the skins and pits left over from our jam processing to impart the peach flavor to the honey water. There was enough flesh adhering to the pits and skins that I felt certain it would be adequate for flavoring the mead. Plus, I imagine that the pits have nice tannins and the skins are probably loaded with wild yeasts. My trusty guide for all of my fermenting projects is Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation. I did deviate from his recipe a tad (imagine that), using less honey and more fruit (fruit wastes?). And now, I’ve got a bubbling vat of delicately flavored peach mead in active fermentation with wild yeasts taking hold.But, still… In all of the many ways I have prepared and eaten peaches lately, my very favorite is fresh off of the tree, juice spraying everywhere and then running down my hands and dripping off my chin. It just doesn’t get any better than this…