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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Canning Peaches

Well, I don't know about you, but canning season was crazy around here. Consequently, I did a lot of canning/freezing/drying and mostly remembered to take pictures, but had no time to post any of it! So this fall and winter, you just never know when a random canning post is going to appear.

Today we'll be canning peaches. Yummy. The first thing you need to do is get some peaches. There are lots of different varieties of peaches, but they come in two types: cling and freestone. If you've got a choice, you want a freestone variety. They are much easier to work with. The cling peaches are called that because the flesh "clings" to the pit, and so has to be freed by a pitting spoon or some such measure requiring a great deal more labor than just starting out with a freestone peach. A freestone peach has a pit or "stone" that comes "free" from the flesh (separates) easily. So if you're looking to plant a peach tree on your property, I'd look for a freestone variety.

After you've got some peaches, get them washed up and pretty. Now we'll skin them.

Skinning a peach is really quite easy. Get some water boiling in a pot. Dip the peaches in the boiling water for a while. The book says 30-60 seconds, but I've left them longer with no ill effects. You can tell when they're ready to come out because the color of the skin changes--the red will dull a bit--you'll see what I'm talking about when you do it.
Then take them out of the boiling water and put them immediately in cold water. I have a really cool metal basket thing (you can see the handles in the above picture) that allows me to put a basket of peaches in the water and then pull them all out and transport them to the sink. Slick. Much better than fishing one peach at a time out of the pot of boiling water, but that works too.
Now the skins should slip off the peaches easily. These are kind of mini peaches, but hey, they were free, so I'm not complaining.
If your skins do not slip off, you might have cling peaches, or your peaches may not be ripe enough. The skin of underripe peaches does not come off easily and causes a great deal of frustration! If you have underripe peaches, just wait a couple of days for them to ripen up a bit before canning and save yourself the trouble of peeling them with a knife.

After they are peeled, use the dent along the side of the peach as a guide to cut the peach in half and remove the pit.
Now you can leave them halved or cut them in slices, whichever you prefer. I like slices, but halves are faster, so I have some of both in the storage.

Put the cut peaches in a bowl containing 2 quarts of water and 2 TB FruitFresh or EverFresh or some similar product to prevent browning.

Meanwhile, get your boiling water canner, pot of lids, and syrup heating up. Syrup is a ratio thing. 1 sugar to 4 water is a light syrup, 1 sugar to 2 water is heavy. I like 1 sugar to 3 water. Use whatever you want to measure the sugar and water as long as you pour it in the pot according to the ratio.
I have a friend that skips the syrup and just puts 1/4 cup sugar in each quart jar after she's filled it with peaches and then pours boiling water over the top of it all to fill the jar. She claims it's less messy than using syrup. Might have to try that next year.

Now, put the peaches in your jars and pour the hot syrup over them to the bottom of the neck. Free the air bubbles. There's a tool for bubble freeing, but I just use a butter knife and poke it in about 4 times around the edge of the peaches and do a little squeeze/wiggle with it to get the air out.
Wipe the rims of the jars clean, screw on your hot lids and rings and process the jars in the canner. 25 minutes for pints, 30 minutes for quarts. Pull your jars out when they're done and put them on a rack to cool. My rack is my way thrifty oven rack upside down, one side supported by an upside down plate.
Enjoy! Especially lovely to look at on the shelf and delicious over vanilla ice cream . . . :)