Food Storage & Other Adventures in Motherhood

Food Storage Friday: Home Canned Peaches

by heather

Growing up, I canned peaches with my mom almost every year, and for me there is something magical about home canned peaches. They bring back so many memories of my mom and both of my grandmothers. Not to mention that they are delicious. They can bring a taste of summer to a fall or winter afternoon and they are one of the few foods that my picky eaters will always eat. This was the first time that I did it on my own. I pulled out Canning & Preserving as a reference, before deciding that although the author has some good ideas she was making things slightly harder than necessary. So here’s a simpler tutorial combining what I learned from my mom and a few ideas from the book.

  1. Compile all of your tools and ingredients. Tools: A water-bath canner & canning tools, cleaned and sterilized jars, sterilized lids and rims, a colander, two soup pots, a bowl, a towel, a small clean washcloth, a spaghetti server and a paring knife. Ingredients: granulated sugar, lemon juice, peaches (roughly 2 lbs per quart) and spices (optional)
  2. Sort through and rinse peaches in cold water. Be picky, the best ingredients result in the best finished product. (When I was finished I sorted through the leftovers and cut them into chunks for smoothies.)
  3. Make a syrup.  I used 2 cups of sugar for every 1 quart of water. (That’s considered a light syrup. You can use anywhere between 1-5 cups of sugar per quart of water. How thick your syrup is depends on how much sugar you put into it.) Bring it to a boil and make sure that all of the sugar is dissolved. Then turn the heat down to the lowest setting, stirring occasionally.
  4. In a second pot, bring a few quarts of water to a boil. This is for blanching. Once it reaches a boil, turn the water off. Blanch 3-4 peaches at a time for 30 seconds, remove with spaghetti server and plunge into an ice water bath. You can can peaches without blanching them first, but this step makes skin removal infinitely easier and it helps to preserve color.
  5. Cut peaches into halves, remove pits and place in jars. Cram as many peaches in as you feasibly can, which will depend on the variety of peaches. Use a funnel, even if you think that you don’t need it because it means less mess on the mouth and outside of the jar. One trick I learned from my mom is that if you put one peach pit in the bottom of the jar it helps to preserve the color and actually gives your peaches a slightly rosy hue. (About the time you start putting your peaches in jars you’ll want to fill your canner with water and start to boil it, because it takes quite awhile to bring all of that water to a boil.)
  6. When your jars are full of peaches, add one Tablespoon of lemon juice to each jar. (Note you must use commercial lemon juice, fresh squeezed lemon juice may have a variable pH and you need the acid to help preserve the quality and color of your fruit.) Optional step: Add spices for a special treat. I added two small sticks of cinnamon, 4-6 whole clove and 3 whole allspice. After I finished it occurred to me that half a stick of vanilla bean would be really yummy too.
  7. Fill jars with syrup, leaving 1/2″ of headspace at the top of the jar. If you don’t leave this much, the syrup can bubble over in the canning process, which will break your seal and if you leave to much it can lead to brown fruit. Use hot water to wet your washcloth and wipe off the mouth of each jar. If the top is not clean and smooth, you may not get a good seal. Apply lids & rims.
  8. Process for 25 minutes in hot water bath. You may need to increase the time depending on your altitude. Increase time by 5 minutes for every 2000 feet above sea level.
  9. When jars are done, flip over on their lids on a towel and leave overnight. This helps to ensure the seal. Any jars that don’t seal may need to be reprocessed or just stored in the fridge.

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