For most of my life, spiced peaches graced the holiday table. Thanksgiving, Christmas, almost any feast featured the oval cut-glass dish with spiced peaches.
Then Del Monte discontinued them. Imagine my horror when I went to get them and they were no longer available. I asked the grocery manager at my local store, and he said they had been discontinued, but he didn’t know whether it was the store or Del Monte. Since no one else packed spiced peaches, I was out of luck.
I went on line and searched the Del Monte web site. It was really not very good. It seemed to be oriented to the buyer for grocery stores, not the consumer. I did determine that spiced peaches were not there.
I e-mailed Del Monte and they sent an unresponsive answer that implied that they had never heard of such a thing. I was appalled. It hadn’t been that long since I had bought them. After all, they were a regular feature of the feast table. That year, the holiday meals were sadly missing the spiced peaches.
At the time, I worked in an office with another daughter of the Old South who remembered spiced peaches as being an integral part of her holiday table as well. We shared memories, and I set out to pack my own the next time peaches were available.
The first problem I ran into was that I could not find small peaches. The Del Monte ones were not a lot larger than apricots, whole, and with the pits. No one sells small fresh peaches. They aren’t in supermarkets or farm markets. I would have to use peach halves and leave out the pits. I found several recipes and sort of melded them. That was before there was so much on the internet. There are now numerous recipes on line, if you’re interested. I checked one out at www.pickyourown.org//peaches_spiced.htm . It has the best directions and tips for the novice canner.
Most recipes call for lots of canning equipment but I cut the quantity down and made do with a large stock pot and a pair of regular tongs. You do need real canning jars with disposable lids. The directions say to leave the jars to cool and check the seal, but it’s really fun to hang around the kitchen and listen to the lids pop as the contents cool and shrink. That pop tells you that you have a true vacuum.
That first year, it was so satisfying to put my own homemade spiced peaches into that cut glass dish. Instead of smallish golden globes, I had golden peach halves glistening in the candlelight. That silky texture was exactly as I remembered from the bought version, and the spicy-tart-sweet flavor was a perfect counterpoint to the richness of traditional Thanksgiving fare. I shared, too – I gave my office mate a jar of the peaches.
It’s too bad that the Del Monte company had so little regard for loyal buyers that they discontinued an item that was a staple for many of us. Sometimes modernization means added work, not reduced work.
(c) 2008 Katherine DeWitt