Hooks for Cooks™

When I lived in Anchorage, Alaska, three years ago, necessity indeed became the mother of my inventions.

As I strolled the grocery stores in Alaska’s largest city, I was often homesick for Seattle’s hot weather produce–the basil, the peaches, the corn, and  the tomatoes. The climate simply couldn’t grow these hot weather foods, and they needed to be “imported” or shipped up from the Lower 48.

One day while picking up some random items at Walmart, I stopped in my tracks. The preserving section had been set up for the season. The selection was massive. Quart, pint and even mini glass jars. Lids. Large kettles. Large boxes filled with metal cans.

Clearly, I thought,  canning is an institution in these parts. Then and there, I knew it was time to get serious. I knew I had no choice but to reinvigorate my preserving efforts. 

In Seattle, I had always frozen and preserved apricots, peaches and other items. But, in Seattle, it was more a luxurious choice than a necessity. In Anchorage, where prices are high and choices are limited, I knew I’d have to find a better way in order to have some flavorful fruits during the offseason.

That summer, I bought a box of Washington peaches on sale at Fred Meyer. At home, I was happy to find that the peaches were still quite tasty and worthy of preserving. Even though I could have made my favorite jam, I wanted something purer. Something to preserve the peach as close to its original form as possible.  I had just lived through my first long dark Alaska winter and thought it would be sublime to have these peaches on a cold snowy night.

So, I targeted one of my favorite cookbooks series—Time Life: The Good Cook. The Preserving volume had the answer and sequential pictures—how to pack fruit fresh, cover it with a sugar syrup and then process the jars in a boiling water bath. I followed the directions and my first attempt was simple and successful.

My children loved the fresh packed peaches in syrup. In fact, when we drove back to Seattle on the Alaska Canada Highway later that summer, I stashed about 8 quarts in our travel trailer. I thought for sure they’d be a welcome treat back in Seattle. Well, my kids loved the peaches so much, the whole 8 quarts were consumed en route!

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