Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The Beautiful Peach!

With all of the talk this year regarding the lack of rain, the peach crop has produced some of the best tasting peaches I have eaten in a long time.  My folks grew peaches and my dad was into grafting.  So he created a few of his own varieties.    Overall my favourite choice is the Red Haven.

Peaches have a long history and were found growing in China over 4000 years ago.  For the ancient Chinese they symbolized long life and immortality.   Eventually peaches and their cultivation moved westward.  Elizabeth Simcoe, the wife of Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe, noted in her diary that peaches were grown in Niagara in 1792.

That area’s unique climate and soil conditions make the area suitable for the growing of fruit. Very little was grown commercially before 1861.  Eventually the area was developed into a thriving fruit growing industry.  

When I was a kid we enjoyed visiting my paternal grandparents.  They owned a large fruit farm outside of Beamsville, a small town then, close to St. Catherine’s. They grew several types of fruit including peaches for 'Fruitland Ontario'.   Needless to say I was never in want of peaches year round.  Between canning them and freezing them my mother made sure of that.  Peaches that fell from the trees were the ones used in jam making and marmalades while the best were kept for pies and crisps.  My favourite way to eat a peach is to peel it and eat it down to the pit.  Of course you cannot complain about peaches and cream.   

Last summer one of my long-time friend’s Ian Ross bought himself a Honda Silver Wing motorcycle.  He had driven down from Elliot Lake to attend the annual Niagara Peach Festival.    He bought a peach pie at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake.  He froze the pie overnight at a friend’s house. Then next day he placed it in a compartment on top of the engine so it warmed up on his ride up to Guelph.  I could hardly wait for his arrival.  The pie was thawed and ready to eat with some delicious vanilla ice-cream.  Now if that isn’t being in heaven I don’t know what is!

There are lots of recipes for using peaches in all kinds of cuisine, including curries.  The following is one for an interesting jam my mom used to make.  I made a few jars last week and they turned out delicious.  Give it a try.

Peach and Cantaloupe Conserve
1.25 cantaloupe, peeled, diced (about 1.3 kg)
1.25L peaches, peeled, diced (about 1.4 kg)
25ml grated orange rind
200mL orange juice
1.25 L sugar      
Combine cantaloupe, peaches, orange rind and juice.  Add sugar.  Bring mixture to full rolling boil and cook until thick (about 30 min), stirring frequently.  Remove from the heat.  Stir and skim 5 min.  Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal.  Makes about 1.5 L. 

*If this doesn’t thicken to your liking, it is a great topping for ice-cream and other desserts.  Enjoy!

If two or three persons should come with a high spiritual aim and with great powers, the world would fall into their hands like a ripe peach. 
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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