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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Summertime Peaches

This week, I took a trip to a farm near one of the places I lived as a child.They have a wonderful fruit stand there and mom decided to buy a lug of peaches. She wanted to can them.

What is a lug? A lug is not quite a bushel but it is the size of which most produce is delivered to markets these days. They weigh about 31 to 33 pounds. A bushel weighs 33 to 38 pounds.
I have sweet memories of canning peaches in the late summer with my grandmother and aunts. In those days, we'd pick the peaches ourselves. I remember how the peach fuzz would fly, getting between my collar and waistband and making me itch like crazy!  
Butler's Orchard
Peach canning was a joint effort among friends and family back then. The men would set up all the ladders and help pick the peaches. The young children would run around under the trees, picking up the fruit that was dropped.
Photo courtesy of Life Magazine
 The women, who had started their work the day before by sorting and washing hundreds of jars, would pick peaches too. But once the fruit was in the baskets, the men's work would be done, and the women's work would REALLY begin as they peeled and sliced all those fresh peaches.  It was enjoyable work, however, because you got to sit around and visit and gossip with all your friends. Sharing of labor was common then, and I really miss those days!

A lot of families didn't have to worry about rations during World War II or during the Depression if they knew how to 'put up' their own food. This habit continued on and served us through the 50's right up until today!
I remember picking a fresh peach from the tree and biting into it. The sweet juice would run down my chin, and I'd wipe my face with a dusty arm. There's nothing quite as good as a juicy peach straight from the tree. The ones in the supermarkets have been picked green and gassed, and they taste nothing like what I recall as a child. 

These peaches were good, but not quite ripe enough, so we laid them out on the kitchen table, placing them upside down on a white tea towel, covered them, and gave them a day or two to "sugar up."

Then we got busy doing other things and forgot about them!
Oh NOOOOoooo!
By the time I remembered they were there, several had bruises or mold showing.
The others were really getting too ripe to can.
So we decided to dehydrate them.

Slipped skins make peeling a breeze!
The first thing we did was put on a big pot of water and bring it to a boil. The water was deep enough to cover a peach. Once the water boiled, we'd drop in a peach, wait about 30 seconds, then take it out and put it in a pan of cold water. This causes the skins to "slip" and instead of peeling, you can easily just use your fingers to pull off the peels. It saves an incredible amount of time.

The water gets peach fuzz and pieces in it, but it's fine.
Once the peaches were peeled, we sliced them and put them into a pan of water and lemon juice. This keeps them from turning brown.

Aren't they pretty?
After the slices been dipped in the lemon juice,
I put them on the drying trays of my Excalibur dehydrator. 

I love this dehydrator because it has a dial that allows you to set the temperature.
I never dehydrate fruits and vegetables above 115 degrees,
in order to preserve the enzymes.
The fruit took all night to dehydrate. This morning, it was dry, but flexible. It has retained its pretty color, due to the lemon juice bath. I use about 1/4 cup of lemon juice to a gallon of water. I used bottled lemon juice.

I will now bag and vacuum seal the fruit, once it has cooled.
Photos to follow.

The lug of peaches, which weighed about 32 pounds, cost us $20.
So we got these lovely peaches for less than $.65 per pound!
Even with the small amount of electricity it took to dehydrate the fruit,
this is an excellent price!
We had enough to dehydrate a full batch,
and had 2 one-gallon bags of sliced peaches left,
which I put into the freezer.

To freeze the peaches,
I lightly coated the slices with sugar,
then put them into one-gallon freezer bags.
These will be great on cereal, in pies,
or just to eat for breakfast or dessert.
We kept out 3 of the ripe peaches
mom made a small batch of fresh home made peach ice cream last night.
Fresh fruit is one of the things I've missed most about this Valley!

Instead of buying canned or frozen fruit this year,
consider canning, freezing, or dehydrating your own!
It's not difficult at all, and the end product is much healthier for you
than anything you'll buy at the market.
It's also much less expensive.
I figure these peaches cost less than half of store-bought.

It's also very satisfying to put up your own food.
You know exactly what's in the package.
And what a wonderful experience for children!

If you're short on cash,
consider going in with friends or family and buying in bulk.
You can save a lot of money by doing this
and it's so much nicer to do with a group.

Feel free to email me if you have questions.
I've got a lot of experience canning, freezing, and dehydrating
fruits, vegetables, and meat.

Try it!
You've got nothing to lose
and a lot to save!

Until then...

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