A Tradition in Peaches
Some traditions just naturally come to be and for the ladies (and little guy) of Nourish Northwest, peach picking is now in it’s 3rd year as an annual tradition. Each summer we have gone out to Sauvie Island to enjoy the day and pick one of our favorite seasonal fruits. Every year, we have come up with different ways to use our harvest.
In 2012, we made one major mistake: we went a little too late in the season. The first week of September was the last week that peaches were still on the trees. The only drawback to this was that we had to use what we picked almost immediately, so we only picked just enough to eat fresh for the week and to make delicious peach shortcakes. Clearly, the mistake we had made was not really that bad.
In 2013 it was pouring as we headed to Sauvie Island in late August. All decked out in rain boots and coats, the sun came out halfway through our picking and we had a gorgeous day. The time was perfect for picking and we picked a ton! The mistake this year: freezing incorrectly. Overly excited about the number of peaches I picked, I sliced them all about and jammed them into 3 gallon sized bags as soon as I got home. They froze into one juicy clump and it was impossible to chip away a serving of peaches. I had to defrost a the whole bag and once, was not able to get through them all and had to end up throwing some away.
That brings us to August 15th, 2014. The peaches were perfect, as was the day, and we picked a variety of ready to eat and not as ripe peaches. Learning from past mistakes, I had big plans for this year. I picked 16 pounds and wanted to preserve them in a variety of ways.
I got home and realized that again, I had maybe gotten a little overzealous. I had to get to work on these guys.
I decided to immediately freeze the really ripe ones but to do it the right way this time. The first step was to boil them for about 1 minute to get the skins off. Cutting an “X” in them makes the peeling process a lot easier, and so does blanching them.
The next step was the crucial one: laying them out on a large baking sheet in a single layer and freezing them until rock hard. Then I moved them to small sandwich bags, so if for any reason they do clump together I will only have to defrost a small portion. I now have 15 bags of peaches that I can’t wait to chow into during the cold months when I’m longing for summer!
The next thing I wanted to try was dehydrating some peaches. I cut them in thin slices and put them in the dehydrator at 135 degrees for 14 hours. Super tasty, but seems like a waste as they shrink into tiny pieces, transforming 10 peaches into less than a cup of dried ones.
The 3rd thing I wanted to try was canning. I have never canned before and was intimidated by the process. I’m so glad I decided to give it a try because it really wasn’t very hard. I am so excited about the possibilities of this preserving technique for next summer. I found this website super helpful and followed the recipe but reduced the sugar to a minimal amount and added a lot of fresh grated ginger. I only did one jar of peach butter because I didn’t want to waste any peaches if I messed up. I’m definitely going to open it up mid winter and freshen up my oatmeal!
Three years into this tradition and I have learned a lot both from mistakes and from trying new things. So out of freezing, canning, baking, and dehydrating, what is my favorite way to enjoy a peach!?!