Traverse City Record-Eagle


August 23, 2010

Rebecca Lindamood: Hot days of canning

It's true what they say; there are very few things in life that are certain. The sure bets are death, taxes and the fact that everyone else in the household will suddenly have to use the toilet urgently the second you shut the bathroom door behind yourself.

I have one more item for the inevitability category. When produce is coming on great guns and it's time to give the canner its annual stress test, it is going to be the hottest stretch of weather in memory. The bushel of peaches arrives on a day that is 95 degrees with 75 percent humidity. Naturally. The first ripe tomatoes hang off their vines just begging to be stuffed into jars with basil leaves in the middle of a week of record-breaking temperatures. Who would expect any less?

As a veteran canner, I'm resigned to it. I replay the fable of the ant and the grasshopper to buck myself up while bending over the pot blanching tomatoes and peaches to remove their skins more easily. I picture myself grabbing a jar of homemade salsa from my pantry shelves in mid-February and being grateful that I sweated myself into a puddle in mid-August. I remember delivering festive jars of homemade summer fruit jam to neighbors at Christmas in the swirling snow while I'm stirring a boiling jam pot.

The truth is that I love canning season. Putting food away for the winter connects me to generations of my family who have done the same thing. Going down to the basement and seeing shelves lined with the literal fruits of my labor makes me feel wealthy. It gives me a sense of security; the knowledge that we have sustenance handy no matter what weather comes our way.

The boys love canning season for their own reasons. With their mother distracted by timers and pressure canners and jars, they take advantage of the extra freedom. They have taught themselves to scale the insides of doorframes, to leap from the porch rails and, inexplicably, to disco. They also started their own business this summer. Impressively, the boys worked as a team to make garden sculptures and room and linen sprays to sell at our local farmers market. Even more impressive is the fact that more than 500 people have purchased their wares.

Another benefit to canning is being able to take advantage of inexpensive seasonal produce to line your larder. Peaches are mighty inexpensive right now and there are many options for storing them for later usage. Canned or frozen peaches are delicious and handy, but get creative with them, too. Peach sauce is fantastic over vanilla ice cream. Don't confine your peachy efforts to the sweet camp, though. Fragrant, sweet and tart peaches are a wonderful pairing for meat in savory dishes. Peach chutney and salsa add distinction and a punch of flavor to main dishes.

Peach Salsa is a staple accompaniment to pork or fish in our house. And if you're so inclined, a late-night snack of peach salsa and tortilla chips really satisfies a salty/sweet tooth!

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