Friday, August 4, 2017

Is canning peaches worth it?

As I write this, I'm recuperating from a canning session.  Like all canning sessions, it seemed overwhelming and intense at the time.  Like all canning sessions, when it was finally over, it felt incredibly rewarding and totally worth the experience.  In this sense, a bout of canning is about as intense as -- but much less costly or life-committing than -- childbirth.

Today my daughter, her best friend, and I spent 5 hours and $95+ on 95 pounds of peaches.  With this bounty, we canned 3 dozen quarts and 4 more pints of peaches, with a semi-ginormous pile of leftover peaches that didn't go into jars but that will go into pies, breakfasts, and of course straight into our bellies.  (The peaches themselves ran $95; add to that a bit of gas, a bag of sugar for the syrup, plus the energy to can the fruit, means that we spent a bit more than $1/pound for all our efforts, but not much more).

My little army of peaches, cooling on my window shelf.  
So, man, canning is a full-body experience. Intense.  My daughter's friend Mary wanted to learn to can, and so my daughter said I'd teach her.  Canning with other people is always better than canning alone, and I was just as super-glad for the help getting my peaches into my jars as Mary was for the hands-on lesson for her first canning experience.  But in spite of our mutual gladness, there was definitely a moment when we were both exhausted and wondering "is all this effort worth it?"

I just want to acknowledge that busting a gut now in order to minimally ease the future is a heck of a lot harder for people under stress. In my own case, it doesn't help that I've been distracted by questions of what's happening with J-son.   Since wondering about J-son has been causing me stress lately, I'll just say that I probably would have skipped canning peaches this year if Mary hadn't stumbled into the picture.  This is yet another reason why having strong social connections can help a person's financial (and other) outlook.  Social capital is where it's at.  Word.

Given all that stress, is canning my own hand-picked peaches worth it?   Is it?  I think that my own "is it worth it?" moment came at a bit before 3 p.m.  By that time, we'd already driven to the orchard, picked 95 pounds of peaches, driven back home, started several large pots of water boiling and sliced up about half of the peaches for eventual canning.  Our bout of canning seemed miserable and never-ending at the time.  But the truth is, Mary left with her dozen quarts of peaches about an hour and a half later, by which point my own two-dozen quarts were just about done.  And everything was cleaned up by 5 p.m.  Five hours isn't exactly the same as eternity, even if if feels like that in the moment.

Around 4 p.m., once the finished quarts had started accumulating on the window shelf, a kind of euphoria hit me.  And Mary had her own euphoria at about the same time; she started imagining a February in which she pulled her beautiful jars of peaches (already visible, cooling on the window-shelf counter-top), to the delight of both herself and her peach-loving husband.  The mood lightened considerably at that point.  We stopped complaining about the oppressive early-August heat and about our backs, and started discussing plans for canning applesauce in September or October.  I have to say:  a shelf full of canning jars full of fruit is a beautiful sight.  Food in canning jars is just pretty.  It really is.

One of the drawbacks of hating shopping is that I no longer know how much things cost in the grocery stores.  I'm guessing that having 2-dozen quarts of peaches, hand-picked and canned at a bit over $1/pound, will beat the February/March/April grocery store prices for fruit.  I know for sure that canning means less recycling and less landfill-bound trash, but I can't personally verify anything about cost.

Is this worth it?  If you ask me at 3 p.m. in the middle of a canning day August, I just might have said "no".  But check back in come January, when I go "shopping in the basement", and the answer might be different.  Right now, I'm happy for the day of company, for the distraction from aspects of my life that I can't control, for the golden peaches on my table and on my window shelf.  It's nice to have an intense experience with friends in the midst of adversity; it's heart-warming to have beautiful jars of beautiful food promising to feed me in the cold months ahead.


  1. We have a peach tree, and we've just started getting ripe ones. I love peaches and summer! We don't have enough for a huge canning extravaganza (especially this year, with its late freezes), but last year we made a few pies, some ice cream, and some peach butter, in addition to many, many peaches eaten in the garden with juice dripping down our chins and fingers.

  2. I love our peach tree! I spent an entire morning a few weeks ago picking, slicing, and laying out peaches from the tree our solar dehydrator. But a combination of wet fruit, cloudy days, and multiple layers of the rack (with lower layers always drying more slowly) conspired against me, and the fruit got moldy instead of getting dry. Sadness. Glad to hear your peaches are doing well!