Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Drop Peaches, Drop Hearts


I made peach jam today with drop peaches. They were given to me by the orchardist who sells fruit at our local farmers' market. It was my last market of the season as a vendor (I sell baked goods there), because I start teaching next week and my schedule will no longer allow me to do it. But I hope to still be able to stop by there and grab some produce if I can get there before they close some days. The fruit they sell is wonderful: fat juicy peaches, pears, apricots, plums, and many varieties of apples in the fall.

Drop peaches are perfectly good except they tend to have a large bruise on one side. Damaged goods, they are. Can't sell them (well, maybe for a much reduced price). Can't eat them, plump and juicy, over the sink as you would a healthy peach because you never know if a bit of rot or mush lies just beneath the skin. Also, they tend to go moldy quickly so you have to use them immediately. So to make jam or preserves with them, you have to peel them and carve away all the soft, brown, moldy or damaged bits first. The fuzzy skin covering them, nature's firm but permeable jacket, must be cut away to reveal the vulnerable flesh within.

It feels wasteful cutting away all that damage. Like there's hardly any peach left. Like what IS left might not be good for much. And despite having to be somewhat ruthless cutting away those bruises and gashes, you still have to be gentle with the parts of the peach that are unharmed. Determination and compassion must be applied in equal measure. Also, some of the drop peaches may not be fully mature or ripe; so even if you can salvage portions of it that are free of spots or bruises, they may not be as sweet or juicy as a more mature peach. Oddly, the more mature the peach, the less hardy it is and the less resilient to bruising it is.

But if you're willing, and steadfast, you can make something wonderful from all that damaged fruit. Peach jam was always my favorite growing up: even over strawberry. Jam is summer, kept in a jar. It warms the soul, revitalizes winter tastebuds, and tastes lovely on buttered toast. It is worth making, and it is certainly an act of determined utility and creativity. I mean, turning a pile of bruised fruit into bright jars of sunshine? That is an accomplishment. Sure, you could toss them to the chickens and they'd be grateful for a moment. But think how much more jam will be appreciated by humans in the coming months.

After preparing the fruit, having removed its surface damage and exposed the tender flesh beneath (and of course you gnawed on the fruit left on the pit after cutting the useful parts off: why consign those pits to the compost bin when there are several small bites on fruit left clinging to them?), you then have to chop it. And boil it. And seal it in jars. Sugar and lemon juice must also be added. It's a process, making something beautiful and pleasurable from something bruised and unwanted. You will need fire and water. And other opposing forces you may find within you. It will take longer than you think. You will be rewarded. I wish you joy of it.


2 comments:

  1. Welcome back! I got peaches this week and am hopeful of making jam next week...after Merc Retro! Until then...lamenting the blossom end rot on the tomatoes but loving the last rush of frssh veg from the garden.

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  2. I adore peach "anything". Wish I knew how to can!

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