In the late winter months when cold weather usually starts to pall, I remind myself that peach season needs those good cold hours to make the fruit. Then sometime in late February (usually) the trees begin to bloom. Often you can see acres and acres of trees blooming at once. It's the loveliest thing!
From there on we pray the cold weather is over and done and no harm comes to our peaches.
I personally like freestone peaches which tend to come in a bit later, towards July. However, this week we noted as we drove down to John's work place that peach harvest was in full swing. These early peaches are known as 'cling' peaches because they cling to the stone. These are generally what you find canned in stores.
Tuesday at Aldi we noted the peaches were small. I skipped buying them because there is just something different about the peaches sold in a grocery store and those sold in a packing shed. You can't say I'm talking nonsense, but I assure there is.
I generally buy my peaches while they are still firm but just picked from the trees. Then I bring them home and let them slowly finish ripening. Oh.my.goodness.
I have two early memories of peaches. One was of being at Grand mama C's home. She always froze her fruits and vegetables in these tidy little white waxed boxes that you slipped a plastic bag inside and tied off with a twist tie. The box kept the fruit flat. I really must look for some of those little boxes because they do make for a very neat fit in the freezer!
Grand mama would offer me what she called peaches and cream. She take out a package of frozen peaches and let them thaw just enough to still have ice in them but they were juicy and easily broke apart from one another. Then she'd sprinkle over a spoon of sugar and take a can of evaporated milk ('cream' on both sides of my family line was always evaporated milk) and pour a little of that over the peaches. Hence I had a bowl full of peaches and cream. It's unbelievably good, perhaps because it's so darned simple.
I do not recall eating peaches in any other way with Grand mama, which seems odd, since Grand Daddy set up peach stands at the interstate and ran them after he retired. I'm pretty sure they must have eaten fresh peaches and that Grand mama made cobbler or pie but all I ever remember eating is frozen peaches and cream
Here on this place, there were once peaches planted across the road in the same field where they are planted now. Granny was given permission to go in and take what she wanted for her personal use by the orchard owner. This was not just a neighborly gesture. There was a long history between them and my Grandparents. They were part of the strong community here that surrounded this little farm.
I remember going out to the orchard to help Granny. I doubt I was very much help at all. For one thing it was hot and peach tree leaves sting as do those fuzzy peaches. I wanted to eat peaches right away and Granny wouldn't let me. She wanted to be sure they were well washed before we ate them.
Granny made a peach cobbler with a lattice top. It was really a deep dish peach pie with a lattice crust criss crossed over the top.
She put plenty of peaches in the freezer. She dried peaches in the sun on old window screens that she kept covered with cheesecloth. The dried peaches were meant for fried peach pies, which were tart and sort of brown inside but oh so good. However, most of her peaches went into the freezer.
I do smile at the 'survivalist' types who think they are on to something unique with all their dehydrated and canned foods. Granny was just one more in a long line of family who did that as a natural amendment to their living. You grew food or foraged it or you took the generous gifts of neighbors and you put it by for later.
But it wasn't all food storage. No sir! Homemade peach ice cream was the star of summer and was served a few times during the brief peach season. There's was an old fashioned churn, the kind that required muscle and patience. We all wanted a turn but somehow we never lasted until the ice cream was fully made.
Mama put up peach jam and canned peach halves each year. Gracious there is nothing like a cold January morning with a hot biscuit, melting butter running over the plate, and that just opened jar of peach jam smelling like summer just walked through the door. The peach halves were for salad or cobblers. Mama was given an easy cobbler recipe that was my standby for years. It's 1 to 1 ratio of fruit, butter, sugar, milk. 1 cup of the fruit, sugar and milk to 1 stick of butter. You can double or triple the recipe. I like to half the butter and double the fruit but it's still good eating.
One year during my first marriage we'd had a particularly hard year. We'd happily accepted such bounty as a wild boar and venison and all the tomatoes anyone would pass our way. A friend of my husband let him know that the local freezer plant had finished harvesting peaches from an orchard. The contract didn't allow the orchard owner to sell the remainder of his crop and the peaches were wasting on the trees. He called in his friends and put out the word that the peaches were free. We took my ex-husband's old army duffel bag and filled it full of peaches.
I canned 26 pints. I even managed a few jars of Mama's peach jam recipe. I looked at the collection of jars on my pantry shelf and felt rich.
Today Mama and I stopped at a well known peach shed, called Dickeys Farm in Musella.
It has atmosphere my hometown shed lacks. Just look at all those ceiling fans and rockers! There are antiques all over the place and they serve peach cobbler and peach ice cream, fresh churned daily. They sell peaches and a variety of farm fresh vegetables and melons.
The draw today was peach ice cream for Mama and I. Yes, right now, right in the middle of my reduction time, I had peach ice cream. It's a treat I allow myself only once a year and today was my day.
We sat in the parking lot eating our cup of ice cream and watched people. My favorite person today was an old famer, likely near 90, in overalls and ball cap who ordered an ice cream cone of peach ice cream. He looked over the peaches and the produce and slowly ambled back to his truck and sat there enjoying his ice cream. I'll bet this was his summer treat as well. I suspect he'll be back next week for another.
By the way, I glanced at the peaches today but I didn't look at prices. I'm saving that for a little later this month...Today I was content to walk about in my peach-y memory.