Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Peaches and Cardamom Preserves

So, about that case of peaches. I have made a discovery. I'm sure it's not totally new, I'm sure that I'm re-inventing the wheel here, but peaches... were MADE for cardamom. I'm in love with this jam. It started on a whim. I made a nice big batch of peaches and honey preserves, nothing special, just the recipe inside the Pomona Pectin box. Really nice and sweet. But my canner only holds 12 jam jars at a time, so while I was processing the first batch of filled jars, I decided to throw a bit of cardamom in the pot of left-overs. I had a jar rattling around in the spice cabinet, bought for gluten free pepparkakor cookie experimentation (which I still haven't gotten quite right). Why not, right? It smelled nice together, and I really do love cardamom.

Holy cow. Yum. Like, galactic yum. I'm eating this stuff out of the pot with a spoon. I'm going to have to develop a decent gluten free shortbread cookie recipe JUST to showcase this jam. I think you get the drift here, I'm a fan. And to top it all off, it's easy to make.

I blanch my (very ripe) peaches in hot water, until the skins just started to flake, then dump them into cold water in the sink. At that point, you can just rub the skins right off. Easy peezy. I remove the pit, chop them into large chunks, put them all into a large bowl, and just give them a few squashes with a potato masher. My mom likes her peach preserves with nice-sized chunks in it, so that's what I make. If you like it smooth, run it through the food processor or use an immersion blender. Just make sure that you measure it after you mash it.

Peaches and Cardamom Preserves

3 cups Lightly Mashed Peaches (peeled and pitted)
¾ cup Honey
3 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp Calcium Water
3/4 Tbsp Pomona Pectin
3/8 tsp Cardamom

Sterilize 4 half pint jars, lids and bands.
Mix honey and pectin thoroughly in a bowl.
Bring peaches, lemon juice, cardamom, and calcium water to a boil in a large pot.
Mix honey-pectin into peaches, and stir to dissolve pectin.
Bring mixture back to a boil, then remove from heat.
Ladle hot preserves into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch head space.
Cover each jar as filled, and tighten bands.
Process jars in hot water bath canner with the lid on for 10 minutes (15 for high altitude).
Remove canner lid, and let jars sit in open canner for 5 minutes.
Remove jars and place on cooling rack.
Let sit undisturbed for 12 hours. Check seals before storing.
Remember, can at your own risk.

Monday, August 5, 2013


I had plans for yesterday. They involved the 20 pound case of peaches which is, at this moment, still sitting on the kitchen floor. They were beautiful plans, involving jam, and maybe some more fruit leather. Maybe canned sliced peaches. And then, life happened.

Today is my eldest daughter's 9th birthday, and there is no one here but the four of us and my mother. And there will be no one else for a couple of weeks. Why? We have grade-school-plague. Yup, you got it. Lice. Lice that I discovered at about 10 o'clock yesterday morning. I know where we got them from, but I'm naming no names, because it happens to almost everyone at some point.

If my house didn't look like a bomb had gone off before, it certainly does now. My couch is covered in clean sheets, my laundry room is knee deep in bedding, clothes, and stuffed animals, and the steam washer and steam drier have been running non-stop. Between my mother and I, we have vacuumed at least five times. After that, every hard surface in the house got a coating of diatomaceous earth. I know this is overkill. I know. But my whole body just itches, even though I was given a clean head of health, as it were. None the less, I sat covered in rubbing alcohol and topped with a disposable shower cap just like the rest of the family. Why take chances? And then there were the phone calls to nearly everyone we know. “Hi, I'm just calling to tell you we may have given you parasites.” Yeah. That was fun. Luckily, the infection seems to be limited to us.

And the more I vacuumed, shoveled laundry into the wash, and installed dust, the crankier I got. I had plans darn it, and my peaches were in heaven only knows what condition. I hadn't even managed to open the box and check them after Shawn got them home from the farmer's market. The crankier I got, the more miserable I got, all the while thinking to myself, “Wow, that's a lot of fuss over some peaches.” Only, you know, it wasn't about the peaches at all. My baby is turning 9. WAY too fast. And I know it's cliché, but I just can't cope. My time with her is half way over today. And after watching my mother try to cope with my brother moving half way across the country to attend a PhD program this week, I have a rather vivid idea of what is coming my way. It's a good thing for your children to go off and fly into the world. I know this. I have every reason to be proud of my daughter's independence. Just like I have every reason to be proud of my little brother. But it just stinks. There's nothing about it that doesn't stink for me. This is why people get dogs. And yes, I'm still feeling cranky about it. And raw.

So, last night, mom and I got tipsy and played cribbage. My ideas about a good time may seem a little pedestrian, I know, but it had been a long darned day. Besides, math, brain damage, and alcohol are a pretty entertaining combination, never mind shuffling the cards. Being able to laugh at yourself can be a balm to the soul.

I find myself so pulled in so many different directions. I can't wait until my children are grown and gone, my house quiet. I'm also dreading it more than death. The same struggle is taking place on a smaller time scale as well. I can't wait until they go back to school, and I can get a few hours of peace and quiet. And I really really want them to stop growing up so fast. I want the days to slow down some. Here it is, stone fruit season already, and those peaches sit in my kitchen like an armed bomb, reminding me how fast the summer has gone by. In just over 3 weeks Jason will get on a bus, and I won't see him for almost 8 hours. It's a new chapter in our life. I'm just not ready for that. And I can't wait.

But no matter how I feel about it, life marches on. This morning we had a much quieter celebration than usual. Tonight we'll have Susan's favorite dessert, peanut butter cookies, and in the meantime my kids are spending a quiet day playing with legos. In a few moments I will get up and start in on my peaches. And I will try to process this tangle inside me, to restore my emotional balance so that I can once more do the most important job on earth. To wit, teaching another human being to fly into their own life, while living my own.