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How to Can Peaches

I went to a fruit stand the other day intending to buy an avocado. One avocado. That’s because I was in a crazy avocado mood and didn’t dare buy three or four or I would more than likely sit down and eat three or four. I had checked the avocados at Haggen’s and they were $1.99 EACH. That will be the day. So when the opportunity presented itself, I squealed into the parking lot of the fruit stand out near Smokey Point on two wheels and bolted to the bin of avocados. Nice and big … ripe but not overly so … and NOT 1.99. I grabbed two, because … just because. And then I grabbed some tomatoes-on-the-vine, a bag of tortilla chips with only .5 grams of saturated fat per serving (compared to the 3 grams in the bag next to it … these things matter these days), some Braeburn apples and Yakima peaches, and all the makings for salad. And then, while standing in line with my bounty, I saw that the man in front of me was picking up several boxes of peaches. I developed a sudden yearning to can peaches.

“How much are the boxes?” I asked the boy behind the counter.

“25 dollars,” he answered.

So I bought two. I bought two boxes of peaches knowing there were no days in the coming week when it would be possible to deal with them. But they came home with me, nonetheless.

Fortunately, they still had a little ripening to do. So they sat on my porch swing all week, waiting for me to remember them.

Tuesday was the day. And Wednesday. And today, later. I have peaches in the freezer, peaches in the fridge, peaches on my counter, peach halves in quart jars, and peach-ginger jam in pints. I’ve already made a peach galette and a peach cobbler, and another peach cobbler will be happening tonight.

In case you need an avocado this week, here’s how you can peaches:

Canning Peaches

Equipment:

  • large canner (this is a pot with a special canning rack for your jars)
  • clean canning jars with rings (can be used over and over) and NEW seals (only used once)
  • large funnel
  • jar lifter (really, really helpful, but not absolutely necessary)

Here’s what the canner looks like. I’ve had mine a very long time, and it shows:

Your jars must be absolutely clean … and hot. If you have a dishwasher, start a load of jars. If your dishwasher broke over a year ago and you just haven’t gotten around to replacing it (it happens, you know), you’ll have to do what I did. Wash your jars in the hottest, soapiest water you can stand, and then fill them with boiling water and let them stand till you’re ready for them.

Pour hot water over your lids too.

Now fill the canner with enough water to just cover your cars once they are submerged. Start it simmering.

Syrup ingredients:

  • sugar or honey
  • water
  • peaches

I like to make a light syrup (as opposed to heavy) because I figure we get our sugar from enough other places already. For this batch, I used our own honey, but you can use sugar as well.

Light syrup: 8 cups water to 3 cups sugar or honey

Heavy syrup: 8 cups water to 8 cups sugar or honey (and doesn’t that just look like a riDICulous amount of sweetener? I thought so too. Let’s make light.)

Mix in a pan …

… and bring to a boil.

While the canner water is heating and the syrup is coming to a boil, prepare your peaches. The easiest way to peel them is to dip them into a pan of boiling water for 30-60 seconds …

… and then drop them in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Then just hold the peach under running water while you slip the peels off. Usually you can do this with just your fingers, but if you need to start the peels with a knife, do that.

Taking one hot jar at a time out of your dishwasher (or emptying of the hot water you filled it with), fill with peaches, arranging them pit-side down (I know you just removed that pit, but I mean where it was. Before. ) I cut mine in half today, but sometimes I’ll quarter them. You can actually fill the jar fuller with quarters, but I just felt like halves this time. If you put your thumbs on top of the peach and the rest of your fingers on the bottom, you can kind of wiggle the peach open and loosen it from the pit. Some varieties pit easier than others. Just do your best.

After each jar is filled, pour in the syrup using your funnel. Leave 1/2 ” of head space at the top of the jar. Then take a butter knife and slip it between the jar and the peaches all around to loosen any air bubbles that are trapped in there.

Wipe the rims with a damp, clean cloth. If any residue lingers, your seal might not set up right. Top with a clean lid and then screw it down with a clean ring.

As soon as you have six jars ready, set them in the canner, lower the rack so it’s setting on the bottom, cover with the lid, and start boiling. Once it hits a boil, begin timing. For quarts, cook in the water bath for 30 minutes. For pints, 25 minutes.

When the time is up, carefully lift the rack back up and set the grooves on the edge of your pan again.

I probably don’t have to tell you to be really, really careful when you lift these out of that boiling water. But be really, really careful. This is where the jar lifter is so helpful.

Set the jars on a soft surface to cool. As they do, you will more than likely hear a very satisfying pop. That’s the sound the seals make when they … well, seal. You’ll know they’ve done so when you push down in the center of the lid and it doesn’t pop back up again.

Wasn’t that easy? 🙂

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