Some consider the family a basic building block of society, nests that nurture civility and tolerance, but we all know they’re vulgar hotbeds of contention. If you’re lucky and manage to stay out of court most of the time, the strife is petty, like the genetic tempest in a teapot I created over–-of all things–-pickled peaches.
We’d been having a carefree back-and-forth online discussion on our family website about a traditional holiday meal when I oh-so-casually mentioned that a cold plate featuring stuffed celery, trimmed green onions, black olives, and pickled peaches always appeared on our table. The pit hit the fan when a younger relative professed that she had no idea what pickled peaches were, much less what they taste like, to which I expressed what they obviously considered an excessive degree of shock and dismay.
Before I could sit sideways to assess my position, I was in a pickle myself. Another young cousin called me “a snooty old know-it-all”, another chimed in with “Mr. High-and-Mighty,” and after that it was a “jump on Jesse” free-for-all employing an excessive amount of rude language. Confident in my legendary modesty and self-effacement, I managed to remain calm for about 30 seconds. Later, to assuage my bruised conceit, I made pickled peaches. Hell, I had to do it anyway.
Pickled peaches are perfect for any holiday table or used as you might any canned peach in cobblers, cakes or for ice cream. Select the smallest fresh cling peaches you can find. It doesn’t matter if they’re a little bit green; in fact, you shouldn’t use peaches that are soft and ripe enough to eat out of hand because they tend to fall apart when moved. Wash peaches, drop them in briskly boiling water for about a minute or two to loosen the skins, and peel. For every four pounds of peaches, combine 3 cups sugar and 2 cups vinegar, add two pieces of stick cinnamon broken into 2-inch pieces and two teaspoons whole cloves. Heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture is bubbling. Pack peaches into sterilized quart jars, add hot spiced syrup (with enough water if needed to cover) seal tightly and process for 10 minutes. Let sit a week.