I have many memories of canning peaches and tomatoes with my mom when I was a teenager.
They are why I run screaming in the opposite direction if I so much as glimpse a pressure cooker or a Mason jar. These memories, they are not happy ones. Home canning is a hot, messy, miserable undertaking that happens pretty much at the high heat of summer. It is a relic of subsistence living, like dressing out and cooking squirrel, that unless you absolutely have to do it to survive, offers a very modest return for an outsize expenditure of time and effort.
Imagine a lovely September evening. It is still warm out. Dinner is finished and the dishes are done, and Mom, who put in a full day at work and then came home and made dinner, has a stove full of cooking pots—one to make the syrup that must be poured over the peaches that are to be canned, one to boil the jars and lids in, and one to boil water to pour over the peaches so that they can be peeled easily, as well as the pressure cooker. Did I mention that it is still warm outside? Well, it's a lot warmer in the kitchen.
We wipe sweat out of our eyes as we peel peaches and slice them into a bowl of acidulated water so they won't turn brown* before they can be packed into sterilized jars, topped up with syrup, capped, and put in the pressure cooker.
We do this every night, slogging our way through bushels and bushels and bushels of peaches, wilting in the steam, getting scalded by the boiling water, until finally all the peaches are canned. We go to bed every night with aching feet and backs from standing in the kitchen for three hours peeling and slicing and sterilizing and packing.
We repeat this effort for tomatoes, although there tend to be fewer of them, and no syrup is required, making our toil slightly less irksome.
|Cute little guys, aren't they? Too bad they won't be helping you|
can those tomatoes.
Ah yes, you say, but think of the payoff—all those jars of golden peaches sitting in the pantry just waiting to brighten your winter.**
Thing is, neither Mom nor I like canned peaches. We prefer frozen, which are infinitely easier to do. As for canned tomatoes, well, they're useful, but let me tell you a secret: core your ripe tomatoes. Toss them in the freezer. Remove the desired number and run them under the tap for a minute until the skins rub off. Chop them while they're still frozen and use as you would canned. Save yourself a lot of effort and some steam burns into the bargain.
*At least not until the necessary pressure-cooking turns them brown.
**Did I mention that pressure-cooking turns them brown?