Summer’s Last Kiss

by Jenni

“Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”

~William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18

Today is the first day of September and the first official day of work for most school employees (my husband included). Temperatures are cooler this week and, though I hope we’ll enjoy an Indian Summer fall, the essence of summer feels decidedly past-tense.

You know how a certain fragrance or taste can transport you to another moment in time? Well, for me, the official Taste of Summer 2011 will forever be ripe juicy peaches and apricots. Since moving here one month ago, I’ve grown quite addicted to pulling an aromatic, sun-warmed sphere of gold from our trees each day, admiring the rosey blush and intoxicating aroma, and then savoring its juicy sweetness. A store-bought peach that’s picked green, transported hundreds or thousands of miles, and then sprayed with ethylene gas to speed ripening cannot compare. For a fruit poacher like me (http://findthefound.org/2011/03/31/confessions-of-a-fruit-poacher/), picking organic fruit in my own backyard is a near-heavenly privilege that I do not take lightly. Right this very moment, I happen to know that there is one last perfect peach hanging high in the tree. It could have been picked a couple days ago, and perhaps should have been, but I just can’t bring myself to pluck it, for the symbolic finality of that action. The end of peach season feels like the end of summer.

But maybe it doesn’t have to end, completely.

In an effort at teasing the benevolent kiss of summer to follow me into the cooler months–to capture that warm flash of sunshine and garden-fresh burst of flavor–I decided to do what women have done for generations: can it. If I could trap that fresh peachy flavor in a lidded glass jar, then maybe I would be able to taste summer again every time I lift that lid in the winter cold of February.

My canning experience is minimal, and I’ve never done it alone. There were the two “We be jammin'” sessions with my precious Grandma Mig in my college years, laughing and laboring over steaming jars of applesauce with girlfriends a few autumns back, and…well, that’s about it. So with this being my first foray into solo canning, I knew I’d better keep it simple. Freezer jam is quick and simple. Perfect.

To find a recipe, I Googled “Apricot Peach Freezer Jam”, skimmed through a few variations, and chose this recipe using Sure Jell fruit pectin: http://kraft.us/o3YO37. It turned out so tasty and I had couple pounds of peaches left, so I decided to make a second batch, this time Peach Rasberry Freezer Jam, which also turned out wonderfully: http://bit.ly/o67zYy.

Below are a few pics of the process and the finished product. I took my time, feeling like a kid finger-painting with the naturally vibrant jewel-tones, and was finished in about an hour per batch. After admiring my pretty jars all in a row, I labeled their contents: “Peach Apricot”, “Rasberry Peach”, and on the last lid I scrawled, “Summer’s Last Kiss.” I’ve since been conducting some highly scientific experiments to determine which divine flavor I like best (this involves smearing slices of bread with butter and topping generously with one or both of the jams; eat and repeat). The results are still out.

If this sounds fun to you, it’s not too late. The next time you see a roadside fruit stand or farmers market, swing in and buy a box of the best looking fruit you find. Even if you’re a jamming rookie like me, it’s not laborious or difficult to make a batch of freezer jam. And they make the prettiest little homemade gifts for friends.

Well, the weather forecast says warm and sunny today. I think I’ll step outside in a minute and pick that last fuzzy peach.

Tell me about it: What’s your favorite way to preserve summer’s sweetness?

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