There’s nothing like a delicious peach. Since it can’t be August all year, though, you gotta find a way to make that summer goodness last so you can enjoy this amazing fruit even in the dead of winter. Around here (okay, on the other side of the mountains but in our state), the best peaches come out in August. My sister and I were trying to remember the first time we canned peaches and how we even got into it as kids. Then we remembered our family’s annual camping/waterski vacation to the Columbia River north of Wenatchee and how we would stop and by boxes of peaches on the way home. We’d spend the next couple days after getting home canning the peaches for the rest of the year. If you haven’t had dutch babies with home canned peaches and whipped cream, especially in January or February, you’re missing out big time! Even chilled home canned peaches out of the fridge are so delicious.
Anyways, you want to know how to do it, right? Well, Kay says you shouldn’t get to learn from a blog post so make sure after reading this that you track down somebody who does know how to can and learn from them (so much more more fun!). Or email me. And maybe you can come over next August, since we’re done with peaches for this year (there’s still applesauce and tomatoes/spaghetti sauce/salsa to do in September).
I come from a long line of canners. Some of the mason jars I use are the same ones that my grandmothers originally purchased back in the 50s. One set of my grandparents, who live in Leavenworth, were recently over and I told my grandma I was teaching a friend to can this week (yay Mandy!). She was shocked (as I am) that people don’t know how to can. It just seems like something everyone should know how to do because 1) it is really fun 2) you get an awesome product you get to enjoy the rest of the year and 3) you feel so darn accomplished when you’re done. I guess I’ll have to change the world one person at a time then…
Last year, I taught Kay how to can. Our boys were down in Vegas a friend’s house for a week so we were left alone…with 13 boxes of peaches. Since each box holds 20 pounds, we had 260 pounds of peaches! Thankfully, only 8 of the boxes were for us…we brought back the other 5 boxes for my mom and a friend of ours. Still, 160 pounds of peaches is a lot to process in a few days! We canned most of them, flash froze some, and made peach pie filling out of the rest.
I am particular proud of the peach pie filling idea pictured above. I don’t have a ton of pie plates so we put a ziploc bag in the pie plate, filled it with pie filling (peaches + sugar + cinnamon + instant tapioca), and put it in the freezer until the pie filling was frozen. Then you can grab the ziploc out of the pie plate and it will keep the shape…when you want to make a pie, all you have to do is make your crust, pull your pie filling ziploc out of the freezer, pull the pie-shaped frozen filling out of the bag, and set it in your crust! That way you don’t have to worry about thawing it out enough to squish it into shape. And I definitely came up with that idea myself. :)
But here is a VERY QUICK “tutorial” on peach canning. Let’s get started!
You gotta get all your supplies, especially the jars (peaches are obvious). Send these through the dishwasher, on a sterilize setting if you can, and leave them on the counter untouched until you’re ready to use them. Then, just before you use them, it’s usually a good idea to throw them in the boiling water [in the canner] for a few minutes so the jars are hot (this method of peach canning is called the hot pack method for a reason).
You’ll also need rings and [new] lids for the canning process which only came with your jars if you bought them brand new from the store. Otherwise, you can scrounge around at garage sales/thrift stores/on Craigslist for jars and just buy the rings and lids from the store (which is much cheaper). BTW every time you can, you’ll have to buy more lids but they’re cheap.
Prepping the peaches…
When canning peaches, you gotta skin ’em, get ’em off the pit, and slice ’em. The quickest/easiest way to get the skin off is to drop the peaches in hot water and then in ice water. There is a timing thing with this that can only be learned by doing it yourself/with a knowledgeable friend (good job, Sarah and Kay!). It’s usually way more fun to do this together so that you can get a lot of peaches ready for the jars at once (since you process 7 jars at a time, which, if you use the quart jars, is up to 30 peaches if you pack them well!).
Packing the jars…peaches and [you decide how] sugar[y the] syrup [is]
This is done carefully and takes some learning, especially if you picked up some regular mouth jars for cheap (I also call them narrow mouth versus the wide mouth) because its harder to get the peach slices to pack in there nicely since you can’t fit your hands in. It is possible but, again, this is a situation to learn from a canning veteran…and a shameless plug to make your first canning experience a communal, rather than individual, endeavor.
Once you’ve packed the [hot/sterile] jars, you need to hot pack(aka fill) them with your sugar solution. Kay, my sister, and I had a discussion about whether the recipe given gave the water amount as a the amount of solution or as the amount of solvent…yes, I am a science teacher. If the previous sentence makes no sense to you, ignore it and keep reading. :)
You can decide how sugary you want your syrup: 10% sugar in water all the way up to 70% sugar in water; I do a 20% (molar ;) ) solution. There are also recipes for using grape juice, honey, Splenda, etc but I grew up being taught using sugar solution. So that’s what I teach my friends!
They’re almost ready… + Processing the jars
Before you keep going (putting the jars/lids on/in the canner/etc), you also have to make sure to get all the air bubbles out of the jars (that’s me 39 weeks pregnant…Serafina was born 6 days after we did these peaches!). The whole science behind why canning preserves things has to do with the seal of the jar lid. When air is heated, the particles spread out; when air cools, the particles get closer together. The point of a boiling water canner is to heat the air particles inside the jar (hopefully right by the lid, if you worked the air bubbles up from the bottom) so that some of them escape. When you remove the jars from the canner after processing, the air particles that remain in the jar condense, creating a vacuum, which creates the seal of the rubber lid to the jar rim. Pretty cool, huh? I love science. :)
After removing them from hot water bath (make sure you have canning tons and know how to use them), let them sit on a table/countertop with some space in between. You’ll start to hear little popping noises as each lid sucks down in the middle as the air inside cools. It’s such a gratifying sound!
Let the jars cool completely and then clean them up (thanks for helping, Mandy!). Sometimes the jars can be sticky on the outside so you just need to wipe them down with soapy water and rinse and dry them. Then label the top of the lids with the year you canned them and you’re good go!
See, it’s not that hard. ;) Just remember it’s WAY more fun to learn with an experienced canner than to learn from this blog post!