1. How do you preserve the fresh summer flavor of ripe peaches all year long?
a. Freeze them
b. Let the birds eat them off the tree
c. Make Spicy Summer Peach Home-Canned Salsa
2. What topping goes well with pork tacos, chicken tacos, AND shrimp tacos?
a. Cilantro and lime
b. Salsa verde and sour cream
c. Spicy Summer Peach Home-Canned Salsa
3. What makes a great homemade gift all year long?
a. 4th of July cupcakes
b. Gingerbread cookies
c. Spicy Summer Peach Home-Canned Salsa
If you answered C to all three questions, you might be a genius.
I think it’s appropriate to post a home canning recipe for the 4th of July, don’t you? I mean, what better way to celebrate your independence than by preserving your own harvest? Home canning and preserving in general are quickly becoming a disappearing art form. Hell, it’s a lot of work. Why should I can it myself when I can drive down to the grocery store and pick it up for about the same price? Why should I spend an hour dicing jalapeños, peaches, peppers, garlic and onions? I’ll tell you why…
Because eating should never be too convenient. That salsa tastes a lot different when you’ve picked the peaches, peeled the garlic, cried onion tears, and felt the capsaicin burn of the jalapeños on your hands for two days (I wish that last part was a joke). It’s not that I’m masochistic, but the sense of connection you have with the very thing that sustains your life is – in my humble opinion – an important relationship to cultivate. I love that word. Cultivate. Meaning to nurture, care for, or help grow. Our relationship with food has become one sided. It works hard for us, often with little or no thanks. I marvel at the fact that a prayer of thanksgiving before a meal has fallen out of fashion.
Tonight I met my girlfriend for happy hour at Tres Hombres, our local Mexican restaurant here in Chico. I guzzled two (or was it three?) margaritas and gobbled some coconut shrimp while we gabbed about all sorts of things. I don’t even know if I tasted the shrimp. Not until now am I even making the connection that those deep-fried and breaded nuggets were once living, swimming creatures. Tonight, they were entertainment. And there was no exchange of gratitude on my part for their nourishment. I’m not going to beat myself up over it. Every meal is an opportunity to remember. To remember to be mindful. To connect with people and place, as well as the elements that are sitting on your plate.
Take the almighty peach tree for example. It takes all year for the tree to make peaches. It sleeps through the short winter days, flowers in the spring waiting for the bees to work their magic, grows big and shady, then gradually bears ripe fruit for a short window. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. There’s some great mystery at work all year long so that I can enjoy a juicy, heavenly, sweet peach. I swear the reason we bought our house 2 years ago is because we sampled a few of the July peaches right off the tree during our showing. That pretty much sealed the deal. We look forward to them every year (so do the birds). Last year we had more peaches than we knew what to do with. Many a branch broke under the weight of our peach greed. So we pruned heavy last winter and this year’s crop was a mere 30 or so peaches. I was determined not to let any more peaches go to the birds, so I figured canning them was the best way to preserve them. To thank them for their year’s work. To do my reciprocal part in the relationship.
So, are you ready to do your part?
Pick a day when you don’t have a million other things to do. This is going to take some time, at least an hour or two. Less time if you use a food processor and have some experience canning. For me it was closer to two hours. I hand chopped everything. There’s something rustic and ceremonial about chopping by hand. I will warn you, though…there’s nothing ceremonial about burning your hands on the jalapeños. I recommend gloves. Really.
Isn’t this beautiful?
Chop the jalapeños, red bell peppers, red onion, garlic and cilantro first. Depending on how spicy you like it, leave the seeds and ribs in some of the jalapeños. I left the seeds in 2 of them and it was a perfect heat for my gringo palette.
Next peel, pit, and chop the peaches. If the skins don’t peel easily, blanch them for 15 seconds. Works like a charm. I used about 8 peaches from my tree and added 4 additional white peaches that I bought. The white peaches were harder to pit and peel than the yellow peaches, but they add a nice color and flavor variance. Totally up to you. Keep the chopped peaches submerged in a bowl of vinegar to keep them from browning while you chop.
Combine all the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a simmer. Cook thoroughly and stir frequently for about 5-7 minutes or until the mixture thickens.
Prepare your water canner. If this is your first time canning, I recommend reading this tutorial from Growing A Green World. If you’ve done this before, I provide brief instructions in the recipe below. It’s important to do this right so the food doesn’t spoil during storage.
Fill your jars with salsa leaving a half inch of headspace between the liquid and the top of the jar, wipe the rims clean and screw the lids and rings on. Don’t over tighten. Add to the water bath and boil for 10 minutes (longer if you’re at elevation).
Carefully remove from the water and set on a counter to cool. Wait until you hear the symphony of “pings” chiming away. That means that all the oxygen has been removed from the jar, creating an environment where bacteria and other creepy things will not survive. No creepy bacteria allowed in this salsa. Only good stuff.
Nice work, guys and gals. Your grandma would be proud. And the peaches thank you.