Monday, July 9, 2018

Peach Pie Filling

It was the endless and seemingly impossible task of weeding my garden that inspired a new thought.  

One day I will pull my last weed. 

In a single thoughtless moment, I will lean down to pull the last bit of unwanted green beside a flower or vegetable, while silently groaning in my head. It will take but a few seconds and there will be no warning that it was the final ouster of my final creeper. 

Or it will take a whole minute, or two. Maybe five. It might be the stubborn sort with roots that extend to the Earth's core that keeps coming back after I've broken it off a few times already. I might have to trudge to the garden shed for the asparagus cutter and plunge it as far as I can into the soil to eradicate it below the surface. Perhaps the groan in my head won't be silent. After hacking away at the thing, I'll tell someone about this escapee from some jungle with not just roots, but tentacles. Neither man nor science can make it go away and it miraculously regenerates right by the front steps where all the world can see it. It's so big and grows so fast that cars passing by probably stop to take pictures of it. What is that thing? Should we call the extension office for identification? It's probably an invasive tree. Does the Division of Forestry need to know?

Without any notice, it will be my last complaint about a weed. At some point thereafter, my life will change drastically, or circumstances will gradually dim my lights without the obligatory written notice that an electric company would be required to provide you. Weed pulling will no longer be a priority. My hands will no longer grip itchy green stalks with the strength and certainty of good health. I'll distantly remember evenings in the garden as the before the sunset, the squeak of a swingset, the quiet hum of a hose. Heaven has no weeds. 

One carefree day I will make my last phone call. 

Write my last letter. 

Sew my last stitch. Actually, now that I think of my well-intentioned backlog of sewing projects, that may have already happened, without ceremony. 

As much as I look forward to a worry and weed-free eternity in the presence of God, today, my dirty hands still exude grit as they reach for the budding young black walnut tree amongst my beans. I'm still up for pulling goosegrass with the best of them, not to mention those audacious young raspberry plants with no boundaries. I don't know when I'll pull my last weed, but it's probably not today, nor tomorrow, nor next year. Like the untold number of freshly laundered towels that I've yet to fold, there's evidence that my weed-pulling career is also in mid-stride. Now that I've contemplated a time when this season shall pass, I can tug and pull with a little more appreciation for weeds, both of the garden variety and otherwise. One fine evening, maybe tonight, I will savor a sunny backyard moment of tidying up the beds to the summer tune that incessantly sings "Come push me on the glider when you're done!" and it's follow up hit, "Are you done yet?" Cue the orchestra. 

No, I'm still pulling, but here I come!

We're enjoying all the fresh fruit that seems to come at once. I'm busy canning cherries for the first time in a couple of years since the price is right. I'm happy for cherries, but must tell you, this peach pie filling is the crown jewel of my canning shelves. I tried the recipe for the first time last year to make sure the quality really held up over the course of a year, and GUESS WHAT? It did. When I popped off the lid, it smelled as perfectly peachy and cinnamon and fresh as a Saturday baking day in August. It is truly a magnificent way to preserve some of your peaches. Especially if your family, like mine, really enjoys fruit pies.

I took one of my own pie doughs out of the freezer, let it thaw, rolled it out and filled it with this canned filling before covering it in a quick crumb topping. Thirty minutes later I had a perfect peach pie cooling on the counter. 

Note: This recipe is adapted from the "Complete Guide to Home Canning," Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 539, USDA, revised 2015. 

It's safe, and I urge you to follow best canning practices when preserving food. 

Here is what you need for 7 quarts of pie filling:

6 quarts fresh sliced peaches
7 cups sugar
2 cups plus 3 Tbsp. Clear Gel
5 and 1/4 cups cold water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 and 3/4 cups bottled lemon juice

Peel peaches and as you peel, sprinkle the fruit with ascorbic acid crystals such as Ball® Fruit-Fresh® to prevent browning. Boil one gallon of water and in small batches of 4-6 cups, boil each batch of peach slices for one minute after water returns to a boil. Drain, and keep heated fruit covered in a pot or bowl. In a large pot or kettle, combine water, sugar, Clear Jel, cinnamon, and almond extract. Stir and cook over medium heat until mixture begins to thicken and bubble. Add lemon juice and boil for one minute more stirring constantly. Fold in drained peach slices and continue to heat for three more minutes. Fill jars leaving one-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process immediately for 30 minutes in a boiling water canner. 


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