Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Peachy Keen (Part 1) Canning

Yesterday, Mr. Beautiful wanted to go out into our field and pick some peaches. He brought me these:
And this monster!

What is a lucky girl to do? I'm starting out with canning sliced peaches since I eat peaches practically every day (sometimes with my yummy scrambled egg whites on the side). And having a toddler around, it would be economical of me to get these bad boys in the cupboard before the season is out.

It was a race between the birds and me, and I must have picked about 18 lbs total.

You will need:
  • Peaches, washed skinned (I'll explain how) and sliced
  • Jar Funnel
  • Jar Grabber
  • One VERY large pot (also known as a water bath canner), a saucepan and a 3quart pot
  • A big plastic bowl
  • Ice
  • Ball Jars (this recipe makes about 7 pint jars)
  • Large spoon and ladle
  • White sugar

Select Your Fruit

Make sure you pick peaches that are ripe but still a bit firm, little to no bruises and free of wiggly critters. Put simply, the kind that you would want to eat yourself. How many should you get? On average it takes about 5-7 peaches to fill a quart jar. I'll let you do the math.

Make a Sugar Bath and Hot Bath

Most of us buy our peaches packed in either water; light, medium or heavy syrup. The added sugar helps improve color and retain the fruits shape while packed. I prefer to go the less caloric-adding path and opted for light syrup.

Pour: 6 cups of water and 2 cups of white sugar into a pot and boil just enough to dissolve the sugar. Turn the temperature down to keep it warm.

*For Medium syrup the ratio would be 3c sugar to 6c water, and heavy syrup is 4c sugar to 6c water.

Now that you have your syrup done, you need to get ready to can. Time to clean those ball jars!


Even if you just bought those jars, rings and lids and they came right out of the plastic packaging, you still need to sanitize them to kill off any hidden bacteria that could later ruin an entire jar of peaches 6 months from now. And that would be heartbreaking, shouldn't it?

This job is easy if you are lucky enough to have a dishwasher with a "sanitize" function. Just run all the parts through and keep them clean in the washer until you need them.

If you're like me...sigh, and wash everything by hand. You need to fill your VERY big pot with water and place your jars inside, set on the stove. Bring the water to a rapid boil for 10 mins, then turn off the stove. Keep the jars in the hot water until needed. Back to the Peaches!

Prepping the Peaches

Get your 3 quart pot and fill 2/3 of the way full with water and place on the stove. By this time you should have: Sanitizing pot warm with jars (or in the dishwasher), a saucepan of warm sugar water, and your 3 quart pot.

Bring the 3 quart pot to a steady boil. While you wait, wash your peaches in the sink (no soap, just warm or cool water) to remove the "fuzz" and sort out any sticks and leave you may have collected. Let drain in the sink.

Take your plastic bowl and fill with water and about 1-2cups of ice to make an ice bath.

Next part is fun!

Take a slotted spoon and drop 3-5 peaches into the boiling water for 30-50 seconds. Remove from the water and drop into the ice bath for a few minutes. The skins of the peaches will slide off easily now! If the skins don't slide easily it is probably because the peaches were not ripe and you have to boil them a bit longer. It's OK to put them back into the water.

Easy! Kids would love to peel the slimy skins off and it's much faster then peeling by hand. This same technique can be used on tomatoes, plums, apricots or pears.
Save the skins in the refrigerator for peach jam!

Slice the peaches open and remove the pits. Slice into halves or wedges whatever you'd like and set aside until all the peaches are done. Sprinkle some lemon juice over the slices to prevent browning while you work.

Hot Packing

Time for our sugar bath! Drop in the peaches and let barely boil for 5 mins.

This boiling the peaches isn't "necessary," but I think it is. It kills off any surviving bacteria on the peaches, helps prevent floaters and makes them a bit softer so you can pack more into each jar :)
Take out the jars from the warm water, put your jar funnel on top and slowly fill with peaches. Pack them in pretty good, but only fill the jar 1 inch from the top. Ladle some hot syrup over the top to fill it 1/2 inch from the top.

Why the head space? Not enough room above the food doesn't allow the movement of liquid or the expansion of solid foods. If there is not enough room, some of the liquid or food is forced out and prevents making a solid seal. Too much space means trapped air (i.e. bacteria) can infect or darken your food. You can use a knife to double check for air bubbles.

Use a clean cloth to wipe the rim from any spilt syrup, place on the lid and screw on the ring. I tilt the jar just a bit to make sure I got the ring on tight (but not too tight). Fill the rest of the jars in the same fashion. Admire your work, you're almost done!

Place the jars back into the VERY big pot and bring to a rapid boil. Boil for 20 mins.

My mother says this step isn't necessary either, you can simply invert the jar and leave alone for 20 mins and the heat from the jar and the syrup will seal them for you....well, I'd rather be on the safe side.

Boiling the jars once filled will supposedly harden the glass jars and create an effective vacuum sealing the jar.

After 20 mins, remove with the jar grabber and place on top of a towel in a cool draft free place where they won't be bumped or disturbed for 24 hours.

Fruits of your Labor

And that's it! From start to finish, I made 7 jars in 3 hours. Was it worth all that work? I'd say yes since homemade good almost ALWAYS beat the commercially made goods anytime.

When cool, smack on a homemade label with your name on it and be proud. These babies will keep for a year if stored in a cool, dry place.

Some browning may occur or some might even change color (due to the chemical reaction in the fruit when processing).But, that doesn't mean it's spoiled. All fruits do brown a little bit, that is to be expected. But if you see mold, throw it out! Keep and wash the jars for another day.

Next blog, remember I said to save those peach skins....

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