Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Once Upon a Summer....

Once upon a time, there was a big yellow dog, called Nikita....

It may be odd to write about food and loss at the same time.  It may be odd, but it feels right to me, after all, food can make one feel better, calm the grief, even if just for a few minutes.  We lost the sweetest, cuddliest and the smartest dog.  We loved Nikita to the point of obsession and she paid us back with pure devotion.  Something about our relationships with our pets makes the tears run freer and heavier, something about the simplicity of these relationships makes them so hard to give up. They give us a purest for of love attachment, unconditional, uncomplicated, unselfish...and we pay them back by this crazy attachment we them.
Nikita was a good dog, but she was more than that to our family.  She was a master of forgiveness, granting us clemency for springing “the monster of all dogs” upon her senior head.  She was a teacher, first teaching my than toddler daughter to keep her food close and her hair ribbons even closer (Nikita had quite a thing for those)… and then teaching the young “Monster dog” how to properly behave in polite society.  She was a stealth thief with countless achievements, she once stole a sandwich while I was STILL MAKING IT without me noticing it… she once ate a whole basket of corn bread I made for Thanksgiving while I turned my head for one minute… she also stole countless sticks of butter when she was young and would swallow them whole, all keeping an innocent expression: “What? Me? No… Look, I am not even chewing" Nikita was a charmer, everyone loved her until she barked endlessly, begging to play catch.  She was an accomplished swimmer, chasing tennis balls and ducks in the lake, performing for the crowd of on-lookers in the park.  She was my warm pillow in the winter, my comfort on bad days, and someone to always count on to lick the tears off my face.  She was a friend, a constant companion, and I miss her terribly.
Nikita loved the summer and was miserable in the winter.  She would sunbathe on the deck for hours, until her silky fur would become scolding hot, and then she would turn over and bathe some more.  Summer meant ball chasing, hikes and swimming in the lake.  Nikita was our calendar, April through October; she would lounge around on the stairs, moving from step to step with the morning sun.  She never did it in the winter. Somehow she knew when the sun was warm even though the temperature in the house was unchanged.  A big yellow dog basking in the warm rays was the first sign of spring even when it was still cold outside, and when she moved from the stairs to our bedroom in the mornings, it was the first sign of winter.  It never sized to amaze me, how will I be able to tell now?
My heart is heavy now, but I know that all dogs go to heaven, where there is no pain, where there is endless summer with plenty of lakes to swim in and plenty of tennis balls to play with, and hopefully someone to throw them.
She loved summer, and in her memory I can make it last a little bit longer.  This preserved summer peaches recipe is pure sunshine; it is summer in a jar. As I was making these peaches, she was wilting away and has not eaten anything for days, but as I was peeling the peaches she came over and looked interested.   One last beg...I didnt know it would be the last thing she ate...a sweet sunshine peach.
I didn’t want to make peach jam, I wanted to preserve fresh peaches and let them keep their texture and fresh taste so I let the syrup remain liquid.  These sweet, sweet, summer peaches are a perfect complement to ice-cream, morning oatmeal or a bowl of cottage cheese.

Summer in a Jar Preserved Peaches.
10 lbs of peaches pitted and cut to bite size pieces (you can leave the skin on or peel it)
Additional 5 lbs of peaches, pitted, skinned and cut into wedges
5 cups of sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
2 cups of water
1 ½ cups of macadamia nuts (optional)
I use a simple formula, ½ cups of sugar per 1 lb of peaches

First make the preserving liquid by combining the 10 lbs of peaches, water, and sugar and lemon juice in a large stock pot.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 1 hrs.  Strain out the cooked peaches and continuing to simmer the liquid until it is reduced by at least 2/3.  The process is similar to making jam, but you don’t have to wait until the liquid “Jells” as long as it coats the back of a spoon it is fine.
Once the preserving liquid seems thick enough add the additional peaches and the macadamia nuts.  Turn off the heat and stir once.  Immediately pour into the preserving jars.  I don’t bother with the actual preservation process as I keep my jams and preserves in the fridge, so I just run the glass jars in the dishwasher for a few minutes and pour the preserves while the jars are still very hot.  Tightly lidded they should keep in the fridge for at least a month.

Once upon a time, there was a big yellow dog, called Nikita...sleep in piece, my friend.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this with everyone. It is incredibly sad and moving. But it also makes the memory of Nikita stay with us thru your words in a very bright light! We are truly sorry for your loss!


LA said...

You made me cry...We all loved Nikita - she was a very loving dog, with full of energy and always "lets have some fun" spirit. Nikita won't be forgotten in our hearts!

Anonymous said...

So very sad :(, but Nikita was a very, very happy dog even when she was already sick. You extended her happy life with your cooking and with the love that your family gave her. She was LOVED by everyone and she LOVED everyone in return - especially if you kept throwing those tennis balls. We'll all miss our happy dog NIKITA. Now when I eat peaches I'll always think of her!