I grew up down South, where I remember climbing trees to get to the ripest peaches at the top of the tree in late summer. No, I didn’t grow up in the Peach State, Georgia; I grew up in Virginia, and we could grow some pretty awesome peaches, as well. I honestly have moments where I remember feeling like I was Tarzan, leaping and swinging from limb to limb on some of the larger trees.
And if you think it’s hot where you are, try a mid-Atlantic region August. Look up the word swelter – there’s a picture of people in the South melting. Anyone south of Maryland knows what I’m talkin’ ’bout.
Hell, most people across the country know what I’m talking about today, where’s it’s supposed to be in the 90s with high humidity well into parts of Maine.
Let’s take a brief moment and pay some homage:
Things I learned down South:
- I know a peach is not a peach until it smells like a peach.
- You should be able to bite into a peach and it should get all over your hands, drip down your chin and neck, and mess up shirt.
- The best way to avoid this is to lean forward over a sink, or better yet, eat the peach outside right off the tree, leaning forward over the grass, as to avoid getting said juicy, lovely mess all over your clothes.
- Slurping is not a bad thing when biting into a peach. It means it’s ripe.
- You can ripen peaches in a brown paper bag for a few days if you get them in your supermarket, but it’s not the same as a warm ripe peach off the tree.
The cute old ladies in the supermarket aren’t wiping their noses on those pieces of fruit. They are smelling the fruit to see if it smells like it should. If you buy your produce from a grocery store, I will tell you this, if certain fruits smells like nothing, it will taste exactly the same way – like nothing. A melon should smell like a melon, a strawberry should smell like a strawberry, and in this case, a peach should smell like a peach. If it doesn’t, I will tell you nothing truer in your life here – that peach is not ripe.
Now, if you’ve followed me at all, you know I live in the great state of New Hampshire, which is otherwise called the Granite State. We’re known for granite. Not peaches. However, we have this awesome university, University of New Hampshire, which has an incredible agricultural department, and a division of that is called UNH Cooperative Extension. Of the many things the Extension will do, they will come to test your soil and evaluate your growing zone.
We live on top of a large hill with wide open fields, but the property slopes quickly down in the back, and we’re surrounded by larger hills – or smaller mountains…call them what you will. We wanted to plant a small orchard when we bought the land, and we knew things could be testy because 1) the land has so many variations in terrain, and 2) it’s NH and it can be 30F and snowing one day and 85F and humid the next.
Hell, I’ve seen it -20F at 7am and 40F by 11am.
Most New Englanders will tell you, “Give it five minutes, the weather will change.”
Also in the great northern parts of the country, we’re known for these fun little things called a Polar Vortex. AKA when the frozen hand of the some ancient mythical version of Elsa from Frozen comes and slaps the ever loving shit outta you and any semblance of warmth you thought you knew. You get booger-cicles within nano seconds of stepping outside.
I’ve seen actual temps be -28F (-33C) and only climb to -20F as the high for the day.
And this lasts for days. Maybe weeks.
Old timers might just call this simply a cold cold front. You know us new kids and our modern language.
Anyways, my point is this – when you live in this kind of climate, you must know what will grow where you are and how to grow it. Enter the UNH Coop Extension; they came and told us we were in Zone 4, but the actual bottom of our hill, less than one mile down was Zone 5. We couldn’t grow XYZ, but they also told us we could grow the lovely Reliance Peach.
According to Grandpa’s Orchard (God, I love this place for it’s name alone), here’s a quick bite about the delicious peach’s history:
Our trees have withstood actual temps close to -30F for weeks on end and they produce the next season. We’ve only ever lost one tree in a brutal Polar Vortex years ago (before they actually called it Polar Vortex) where the winds temps were well into the -60F for several weeks.
Go UNH for creating a Southern treat that can survive and even thrive in the New England suckiness, otherwise known as winter.
This tree is a producer, as well, so like with anything we grow, I’m looking for something that use a good amount of fruit. Enter Ball’s Complete Book of Home Preserving Peach Salsa. If you can, you will not regret the purchase of this book. The pages in my book are stained beyond belief, and I know some of the recipes by heart… like the peach salsa. This will be a book one of my children gets – likely my daughter because she seems to kinda like doing this with me.
Everything with canning is pretty straight forward; if you can read, you can make canned goods. Canning invokes memories of grandma’s house, “summer in a jar”, nostalgia. But here is the thing…it’s becoming a wee bit of a lost art. People today think it’s hard to do simply because it’s time consuming, but it’s so easy.
Just get the damned book and start canning. You won’t be sad. The time invested is well worth the outcome.
Now, if you haven’t listened to me or read any other posts to this point – like Strawberry Jam, then listen up now:
And if you skipped down here to the recipe, then go back and read the whole bit at the beginning of this post about what a ripe peach is like.
This is a fruit based salsa. Forget the tomatoes, and you won’t miss them in this recipe, either. See what I mean about a well loved recipe?
My Thoughts After Making This for the 100,000th time:
Buy farm fresh peaches.
- Buy as many of the items as possible local and fresh. Even the honey.
MAKE SURE those peaches SMELL LIKE A PEACH!
- Are you catching my drift yet?
- I battle the honey bees and asshole wasps because our fruit is so ripe when I decide it’s ripe enough for salsa. See the final conversation in this post below. I don’t care if one half of the peach has bruised so badly because it hit the ground. The side that didn’t hit is still preciously ripe, and I can cut off and compost the rotten half. THAT is the kinda ripe I’m talkin’ ’bout. Juicy, squishy ripe.
- Read the Tip on the left side of the page and live by it. It’s that simple. They know what they’re talking about. See how bright my peaches are? They’ve been setting in the pot in the vinegar for about 20 minutes at this point. The darker ones are simply very ripe peaches.
- Wear gloves when you handle the jalapeños; I like a less hot version, so I devein and seed them. I’ve made the mistake of not wearing gloves, and felt like the underneath of my fingernails were going to burn off for days. And without thinking have rubbed my eyes… those oils DO NOT come off so easily with soap and water, so going to the bathroom and wiping…..even after you’ve washed your hands multiple times after dealing with the jalapeños. Just take it from me. USE GLOVES.
- Rough chop the peaches by hand. Then make your life easier – use a food processor for chopping everything else up.
- This is a recipe that can easily be doubled. Just use a wider pot so everything can have equal love to the heat.
- This is kinda a dump and go recipe. I like these…so much. All the pretty colors happily marrying for goodness.
- Do the cooking method for jar sterilization and sealing, like I’ve talked about in every canning recipe I’ve posted: Rhubarb Rose Petal Jam, Triple Citrus Marmalade or any other one of my canning escapades. SO MUCH EASIER and CLEANER!
Peach ripeness is one of the great battles of every late August in our house. Conversation as follows:
- Husband week 2 of August: Peaches are ripe.
- Me week 2 of August: No they’re not.
- Husband week 3 of August: Peaches are rotting and falling off of trees or the bees are eating them. You’re wasting them again this year.
- Me: No I am not wasting anything. The peaches are not ripe. They’re close, though.
- Husband week 4 of August: Why do I bother planting this shit when it just rots every year?
- Me week 4 of August: Now the peaches are ripe <goes on marathon salsa making spree>.
Every. Bloody. Year. Same. Bloody. Conversation. It’s almost become comical.
This recipe is pure summer in a jar. And when you crack open a jar in the next frozen Hell of a Polar Vortex, you’ll be transported back to those days where you were paying homage to dear Willis Carrier, the man who invented AC.