There are times for This and times for That, and right now is the time for puttin’ up the last of the summer jewels before they fade away for another year. Dusty purple figs melt into copper pots and glisten like rich, amber-hued honey. Emerald okra pods plunge into pools of seasoned vinegar. Golden peach wedges flecked with vanilla seeds suspend in their own syrup. Blackberries soak in tubs of water, ready to line the deep freeze. Each jar holds a memory; a beloved frozen moment I hold onto long after the season tells me I should.
For me, these jars trigger memories of those who perfected the art of preserving and the time spent on their cedar-lined screened porches, swaying on the squeaky, white swing where I watched wrinkled hands mechanically plow through pounds and pounds of perfectly ripe summer produce all the while prattling on about This and That. A string of chipped navy and white enamel pots, silver ladles, sterilized quilted glass jars littered the porch floor. The same battery of characters appeared and disappeared as quickly as Cinderella’s ball gown. A cloud perfumed with peaches and sugar pours out of the kitchen and onto the porch. The cloud smells like a warm summer day, which is the exact aroma that’s lingering in my kitchen as I write.
So, all That to say, This is the time for preserving before it’s forgotten and gone, before it’s just a memory of peach juice trickling down my chin. And with it, the last of the summer days.
Vanilla Infused Canned Peaches
Makes 8, 8oz. jars
Note: To sterilize the jars, bands and lids: Stand the jars upright on a rimmed baking sheet, leaving space between each jar. Place rings and seals upside down on another rimmed baking sheet, again, making sure to leave space between each seal and ring. Place the baking sheets in a cold oven. As you are prepping the peaches, preheat the oven to 225oF. Once the oven is preheated, set a timer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, turn the oven off and keep the jars warm in the oven until you are ready to fill them with the peaches.
- 4 pounds ripe peaches, washed and fuzz rubbed off with a clean tea towel
- 2 whole vanilla beans
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1½ cups cold water
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 2½ cups recently boiled water