Summer Magic in a Jar

The first full yield from the peach tree in the farm’s orchard.

One of the first trees planted in the orchard during 2014 was a peach tree that my best friend Heather had given to me. I felt surprised that we could even grow peaches in New Hampshire, since the winter temperatures can reach prohibitively low numbers. But she assured me, yes, Virginia, you can grow peaches here.

The farm originally had two pear trees that attracted the previous owners, who lived here for 30 years. One mature pear tree had died a number of years ago but had been visible from the deck near the shed. The second had grown nearer to the back door of the house, stately & venerable–reminding one of an Ent or huorn. I think of the old etchings of pear trees in periodicals like Harper’s Bazaar.

An example of an etching of a pear tree from the 19th century.

And, so, two pear trees were planted in the orchard, along with the peach tree, in spots where their spring blossoms can be admired from the back deck. They have been growing steadily, but this past summer the pear trees produced a few pieces of fruit, while the peach tree yielded a bumper crop!

So, what does one do with sun-ripened peaches picked at the perfect time of harvest? Create peach preserves so that their sweetness captures summer in a jar, to be enjoyed even during the deep freezes of winter!

An example of the first peaches picked.

Certainly, I tested the fruit for ripeness, a tough task. Wow. The flesh of the fruit? I’d never tasted such peaches.

The soil of the orchard is like black gold, as Heather would call it. Deep dark rich soil, from when the farm had cows and horses. You can feel the richness of its matter in your hands.

The orchard also sits in the best place possible, on a slope to help with drainage and exposed to the sun throughout the day but with a flood of afternoon light.

Clearly, the soil and sun magically produced the best peaches. I felt like Jack planting a magic bean. Normally, I don’t like peaches because of the fuzz, preferring nectarines. These peaches converted me, no question.

The rich color of the fruit after blanching, peeling, and pitting.

After preparing the peaches, I set about making peach preserves. Now, I had first started jarring when we discovered the huge clusters of Concord grapes that grow all over the property. Then, in later years, I started making peony jelly & strawberry rhubarb jam, also from plants grown at the farm. So, I’d developed some skill at this point.

The finished product.

From the first crop of peaches, I produced 11 jelly jars of preserves, their amber color glowing with the sunny afternoons of summer in the orchard.

I felt proud of that accomplishment: Creating the orchard, planting the tree, watering & pruning its limbs, removing Japanese beetles and spraying organic compounds to deter mold or blight, harvesting & preparing the fruit, making preserves & canning it. All of that effort suddenly became tangible, in a kind of magic really.

So, what better treat to accompany tea during a wintry morning?

Look at that beautiful color.

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