Field Trip: Peaches

One of the most anticipated and savoured of Ontario’s fruits is the peach. It’s a sure sign of the depths of summer. We always look forward to peaches and polishing off a whole basket on a hot day. But this summer is a bit different. Not only are we enjoying them fresh, we’re also canning them for the first time. It’s always rewarding to eat locally in the middle of february, and we can’t wait to pop open a jar of our own canned peaches on some snowy night.

As each different fruit and vegetable ripen in our garden, or in the case of peaches, in our region, we’ve been thinking of different ways to make them last. So far we’ve tackled freezing and canning, and we’reĀ planning to do some dehydrating and juicing as well.

I’ve learned a lot about peaches this past week, as it’s my first time canning them. I’ve learned thereĀ are two types, freestone and clingstone. A clingstone is a peach that clings to the pit. They’re fine for eating, but if you’re trying to slice them beautifully and simply for canning they’ll tend to break up as you try to cut the tender fruit away from the pit. A freestone, as the name implies, is a peach that separates easily from the pit. This makes it a much easier task to separate the fruit and slice it easily.

We were in the Niagara region this weekend and took a drive down a country road to find a local fruit stand to buy some peaches. When you’re canning, the best price is important, but this usually comes at the expense of aesthetic beauty. We asked around and eventually found a stand where they were selling seconds (“firsts” are visually perfect fruit) for fifteen dollars.

They were either wormy or bruised and definitely not pretty when you’re used to the perfect fruit of the supermarket. However, once cleaned up and canned you would never know they were once home to some tiny little critters. Also, the promise of these being freestones was a little early. About half of them were, the other half were a bit tricky to prepare.

We always tell our kids that it’s a good sign to see a worm hole. If the bugs will eat it, it must be tasty. It’s misleading to see perfect, unblemished produce that even the bugs won’t touch. If you visit a supermarket, we’re being lead to believe that humans are the only thing on the planet that are eating fruit and vegetables.

Click here for a printable pdf of the recipe.

My peaches don’t look the prettiest, they are a bit stringy and definitely not in perfect quarters. But I know that when I pull our peaches out in the middle of winter, no one will be complaining!

If you plan to can peaches, now is definitely the time. Scope out your local farmers market for some freestone peaches, and if you want a bargain be sure to ask if they can sell you their “seconds”. If they don’t have seconds on hand, request a bushel and they just might bring one for you to the following week’s market.

8 comments

  • I love peaches. We used to can the ones my mom got off her trees when I was a kid. It was a lot of fun. One thing we have done before is ask farmers if we can glean their trees. This is when volunteers go back over a harvested field or orchard and pick everything that was left behind by the harvesters. We donated most of it to the homeless shelter but usually kept some for our own use as well.

  • We just picked up a juicer and have been gleaning trees we find on the side of the road, but ASKING is a great idea. Maybe it'll get rid of the taste of guilt in our juice.

    Growing up on a farm that was rented out to vegetable farmers really showed us how much food was left in the field. Not pretty fruit, but definitely usable.

  • I love that… “it's a good sign to see a worm hole.” So true. As for all organics, the fact that the plant survived in it's ecosystem is a testament to it's strength and goodness :) – Love the tutorial, and the photos too

  • another great post. now i want to go peach shopping as they really are my favourite fruit.

    as an aside, a friend that has extensive blackberries growing on their land brought us some unimpressive looking (by supermarket standards) berries the other day. they were incredible. though small and not as cartoony/bulbous looking as the ones i ate in a pre-production meeting today.

  • Thanks Kelsey.

    Paul, blackberries are the most delicious when they look their worst! They're always sour when they're black, and fresh, It's when they ripen way more and get soft and mush when you touch them that they're the absolute best!

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