I spent most of the evenings last week canning 50 lbs. of peaches and spiced peach jam, and I am exhausted. Canning is hard work! I cannot imagine how my grandparents, who are in their late 70s, still can peaches, pears, green beans, salsa, pickles, and various other produce items from their garden each year. Maybe I'm just a wimp. But the sweet peach halves in the middle of winter make it worth all the hours on my feet, getting splashed with boiling hot water.
A friend of mine complained the peaches she canned a couple of years ago didn't turn out--they had discolored and didn't taste good. So she asked if she could come watch me this year. I was thrilled to have some help, until I remembered that I can at night. I'm talking after 10:00 people, which means I'm not usually done until after midnight (or later!). It's too hot during the day, and I have to wait until my kids are in bed. Too many distractions otherwise.
Since she's not a crazy nocturnal canner like me, she asked if I'd post the process here. I'm thinking there are a few more of you out there who would love to try canning peaches, but don't know where to start. Well here you go. It's really not difficult, just time-consuming. And scorching, but don't let that deter you! It's kind of like hot glue gun burns. They are the curse of the crafter, but you get over it pretty quickly for the end result.
Canned Peaches Tutorial
Ripe peaches (2-3 lbs. per quart)
Fruit Fresh or other powder fruit preservative
Clean quart canning jars
NEW matching canning lids
Canning lid rings
Water bath canner
Magnetic lid wand
Before I do anything else, I always fill my canner with water (about 3/4 of the way) and put it on a burner on high heat. It takes a while to boil, so you might as well get started now!
The next very important step that I don't have a picture for is to heat/sterilize your jars. I put mine in the top rack of the dishwasher and run a sanitize cycle with heated drying. This will heat the jars so they won't crack, and clean them so no bacteria will be in with your peaches. I leave them in the dishwasher until I'm ready to pull one out so they'll stay hot.
Next, wash your peaches. I start with a small group of about six at a time.
In your large pot, heat some water to boiling. Drop about three peaches in the hot water for about 60 seconds. While these are blanching, wash your next six peaches.
Remove the peaches and submerge in cold water. I add ice cubes to my bowl of water so it will stay cold (the hot peaches warm it up after a few). You'll have to add more ice after every 2-3 batches.
Gently slip off peel with your fingers. If it doesn't come off easily, you may not have blanched it long enough. Put skinned peaches in a large bowl. Discard peels in another bowl.
I like to put the next three peaches in the hot water while I skin the previous three.
If you're doing a large batch like I did, sprinkle the peaches with some Fruit Fresh now.
With a knife, cut the peaches in half along the indentation.
Pull out your pit and scrape out any fibrous flesh with a spoon.
If you have pits that are broken in half, use a spoon to dig each half out.
After slicing about six peaches, I sprinkle them with more Fruit Fresh to keep them from browning and preserve the flavor.
Make a syrup from water and sugar. You can do a light, medium, or heavy syrup, but I always do light. My measurements are 2 1/4 c. sugar to 5 1/4 c. water, which makes 6 1/2 c. syrup. I usually make 3 batches for my 24 lbs. of peaches, but start with smaller increments if you aren't sure how much you'll need. Heat them in a large pot until the sugar is dissolved. Keep it hot.
Layer peach halves with the pit cavity side down. This could possibly the hardest part of canning. Those darn halves want to fall in cavity side up every single time, and it can be hard to turn them over with a spatula with these narrow-necked bottles. But it is important to help prevent bubbles. Leave at least 1/2" headroom from the top of the last peach to the top of the rim of the jar.
Using a funnel, ladle hot syrup over peaches. Fill to 1/2" headspace between top of syrup and rim of the jar.
Take a spatula (non-metal) and put it in the jar, pressing against the peaches around the perimeter of the jar. This will release air bubbles and is very important to ensure your food is safely stored.
10. With a wet cloth, wipe off the rim and sides of the top of the jar. This is important to ensure proper sealing of lid.
11. Oh yeah. Before you start ladling syrup, heat some water in a small pot and put your NEW lids (not last year's) in to soak.
12. Using your magnetic lid wand, lift a lid from the pot and place it on the jar.
Screw a lid ring on tight.
If you have a wire rack that came with your canner, suspend it over the boiling water and put bottles on it.
Once you have a group of bottles (my canner fits about 7 quart jars at once), lower the rack into the boiling water. Cover and boil for 30 minutes. Remember, your water should completely cover your jars by 1-2". If it doesn't, add more water and wait for the water to return to a boil before staring your timer.
Being extra, super careful, use lid tongs to remove bottles from canner and place on a dish towel on the counter. Pretty soon you will begin to hear the lids "pop" or "ping" loudly. This tells you the seal is good and your peaches are ready to store. If you don't hear a ping after 24 hours (and you can press down the center of the lid and it pops back up), refrigerate and use your peaches soon. I only had one bottle out of 25 that didn't seal.
Enjoy the fruits of your labor all year long. Ahhhhhh. . .
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