Our guide, Lauren, ran through the steps we’d follow. Most of us had canned a fair amount in our day, but it’s been a while. Phrases like “half-inch of head room” and “boiling-water bath” were deep in our bones, evoking mothers and grandmothers tending large, steamy kettles.
Eventually, we lined up to assemble the parts. Clean jars stood next to metal bowls of hot fruit. For peaches, we stuffed each jar with quartered fruit and honeyed juice, a cinnamon stick, a few allspice berries, and a couple of cloves. Pears went into their jars with lemony water, a bay leaf, a sliver of lemon peel, a sprig of thyme, and a splash of white wine. Lauren suggested we arrange the herbs and lemon peel carefully along each jar’s inner wall to look beautiful.
We set the caps on top and screwed on the rings, and the jars went back into the boil to process for 20 minutes. We’d run out of time, so we were to collect our jars that evening at Mezze Bistro, after they’d sealed and cooled. And just before we dispersed I snapped a photo of those of us still there.
Fast forward to evening. I stopped at Mezze and rummaged through the jars, choosing the ones with the prettiest arrangements of thyme and lemon peel. At home I unscrewed the outer ring on one and the inner cap slid right off, not sealed at all. Hmmm! I tried the other, and it came off easily as well, instead of being stuck fast.Tough, to have to open those golden jars and consume their contents within days. My son and I sampled the peaches with vanilla ice cream. How to describe it? Succulent, sweet, delicious, creamy, fabulous.
But in fact you’re preserving more than peaches on a morning like this. Ultimately, it’s the best possible (or, at least, the tastiest) way to cling to summer as it insists on turning into fall.
If you are in Berkshire County, here’s information about the remaining “Preserving the Bounty” workshops: http://berkshiregrown.blogspot.com/.
Other communities might like to organize similar workshops to preserve local bounty this fall. FYI, the partners in this enterprise included:
- Mezze Bistro and its vivacious owner, Nancy Thomas: http://www.mezzeinc.com/
- Lauren Gotlieb, local food lover and our guide and mentor, leading us through the morning
- Lakeview Orchards, which supplied the fruit: http://www.blogger.com/www.lakevieworchard.com
- Berkshire Farms Apiary, which provided the honey: http://www.blogger.com/www.farmfresh.org/food/farm.php?farm=2051
- Berkshire Grown, which masterminded the workshop series: http://www.berkshiregrown.org/
- Cricket Creek Farm: http://www.cricketcreekfarm.com/
- Storey, who among other things offered this book to a lucky winner at each workshop: The Beginner’s Guide to Preserving Food at Home, 3rd edition, by Janet Chadwick. See also Serving Up the Harvest by Andrea Chesman