I spent a special day with my mother-in-law, Mary Christmas, canning peaches. MC gets her name from my son, a true devotee of all things winter holiday.
Mary had me pick up a lug of peaches, store them in the pantry and gently squeeze one everyday until the fruit gave way under the pressure. Then, she said, put them in the fridge until we’re ready to can ’em (which, by the way, doesn’t include the use of any cans). She had me run my JARS through the dishwasher the night before she arrived.
Step 1. Assemble your gear. You’ll need plenty of peaches (roughly four per jar), water and sugar, a tub of ice water, a couple big pots for boiling, jars with screw rings and NEW lids, jar tongs, a large slotted spoon, towels and knives. Boil the new lids for a couple minutes to sterilize them.
Step 2. Blanch the peaches. Blanching means to drop them into boiling water for 20 seconds or so until the skin loosens, then transfer them to ice water to cool for handling. This process makes the skins fall right off the fruit. Keep the peeled fruit in the ice water until you are ready to use it to prevent it from browning.
Step 3. Prepare the syrup. Here’s where that cookbook might come in handy as everyone has their own taste in syrup. We chose 4 cups water to 2 cups sugar for thin syrup (more sugar gives you thicker syrup). Oh, and when we were done I realized I doubled the water but not the sugar so our syrup will be ultra thin. But the peaches were so sweet I think we’ll like ’em that way. Anyhoo… combine the sugar and water and boil it.
Step 4. Fill the jars. Stuff your jars with skinned, quartered peaches. Pour boiling syrup over peaches, leaving a 1/2 inch of head space at the top of the jar.
Wipe the rim of the jar to remove any peach guts or syrup splotches as this will hinder the sealing process. Cover with the sterilized lid, screw on the ring and place the whole shebang into the large boiling kettle of water. Our kettle was big enough to hold seven jars without them touching each other. If they are clinking around against each other in boiling water, there’s a bigger chance jars will break and then you’ll have a mess on your hands.
Let your concoction boil softly for 30 minutes. Take a load off, have some coffee… eat some peaches.
Step 5. Remove jars from boiling water and cool. If you did your job right and the stars are aligned, you’ll being to hear popping sounds coming from your cooling jars as they seal. MC says that’s what fall sounds like.
- Uncles make fab babysitters.
- Tweak the brine (or syrup in this case) and make it your own.
- I can eat at least four peaches in short order without getting a belly ache.
- At least for this year, my peaches were not put in a can by a man in a factory downtown.
AND TO ALL A HAPPY HARVEST!