Monday, August 19, 2013

Putting up Peaches

We are nearing the end of peach season here in South Carolina, but the summer is just not complete without putting up some peaches.  And I wanted to share the process with y'all in case you wanted to try it for yourselves.  Now, just to warn you, canning peaches is not cheap, and it is labor-intensive, but ((good night!!)) the results are well worth the extra time and effort!  Home canned peaches are the closest thing you can get to summer-ripened peach in the middle of winter.  There are certainly other ways to can peaches, but here is how I set up my itty bitty kitchen.

* Peaches
* Sugar
* Fruit Fresh - Add this to your canning liquid to prevent your peaches from turning brown while in storage.

* Glass Mason jars or Weck canning jars (with lids and/or seals)
* Canning pot with metal canning insert
* Medium saucepan
* Measuring spoons and cups
* Jar lifter
* Induction cook top and medium pot
* Slotted spoon
* 3 bowls (one for an ice bath, one for your peels and stones, and one for your cut up peaches)
* Paring knife

OK...First things first...when it comes to picking your peaches, you want to find freestone peaches that are ripe, unbruised, and heavy for their size.  (A lot of times, you cannot buy ripe peaches because they don't travel from farm to market well, so you may have to buy unripe peaches and wait for them to ripen on their own.  If your peaches are not very ripe you can lay them out on clean dishtowels in a single layer on your counter for a couple of days.)
I am such a goober...and I love peaches.  :)
Preparation is key, firstly to streamline the lengthy process, and also to insure you won't give someone botulism from eating your canned peaches.  I am not an expert, but I have yet to kill anyone from giving them canned food (or any other way for that matter).  So, make sure you follow the USDA recommendations when canning anything.  It's also helpful if you have someone to share the workload with.  It took my husband and me 4 hours to put up 26 quarts of peaches.

Clean your kitchen, then wash your jars, lids, and seals in hot soapy water and let them air dry.

Fill up your canning pot with hot water and set on high to boil.  I have a glass top stove, and was able to lay the pot across two burners to heat.  It takes a long time for this much water to boil, so you may have to wait a little bit to start the rest of the process.  When the water is boiling, start your syrup.  I chose to make a light syrup using 1 cup sugar, 4 cups water, and 4 tsp Fruit Fresh.  This is enough liquid for 2 or 3 quarts of peaches.  Stir the syrup until the sugar is dissolved.  Stir often to keep the liquid from burning. 
On the other side of my kitchen, I set up an induction cooktop.  Fill with water and set to boil.  Have a paring knife and slotted spoon ready.  (We didn't need the vegetable peeler.)  You'll use this for peeling the peaches.
Next to the indiction stove, fill one large bowl with cool water and ice.  One bowl is for discarding peach stones and skins.  The last bowl is for your cut up peaches. 
Wash a couple of peaches and get ready to peel them.  Peeling peaches is easy if you place the peaches in boiling water for 30-60 seconds, then immediately remove with a  slotted spoon and deposit the fruit in a bath of icy water.

Cut around the circumference of the peach using a paring knife.
Twist the peach to free it from the stone, then peel the skin right off.  If the peach sin't ripe, the skin will stick in places.  

See?  You can peel the skin right off with your fingers.  Use a paring knife if the peel sticks.

Slice the peaches and place into your third bowl until you have enough to fill a jar. 

Stack the peaches into your prepared jars.  The USDA  states that you don't need to sterilize your jars if you prepare your jars in a hot water canner afterward.

I'm sure that my sister, Robin (math genius and perfecter of puzzles), would have some  perfect, mathematical equation to put in more slices, but I've found that if you lay them flat you can fit quite a few peaches in each jar.  Our peaches were very large this year, so only 2 1/2 peaches fit per jar.

Leave 1/2 inch of room at the top of each jar.

Pour hot syrup into the jar, covering the peaches.  I strongly suggest you do this part over the sink!

Carefully scrape a knife around the circumference of the jar, releasing the air bubbles trapped between the peaches.   Add more syrup to cover the peaches.  I also press down the peaches to make sure the syrup covers the fruit completely.  (The peaches will float a bit at this point.)  

Leave 1/2 inch space between the contents and the top of the jar.  It is very important to wipe the edge of the jars before placing the seals, lids, and clips on top.

Place prepared jars in your hot water canner.  Make sure there is an inch of water covering the tops of the jars.  Leave jars in the canner for 30 minutes.   
Use a jar lifter to remove jars from the boiling water, and let cool.  Check the seal by removing the clips and gently trying to lift the lids.  Place in a cool, dark storage for up to a year.
I also love canned peaches! (Still a goober!!!)  :)  This jar was straight out of the canner.  After a couple of days the peaches absorb some of the syrup and swell, so they fill up the jar.

And while we're on the subject of canning, here is a bit about Weck canning jars....  I LOVE the way they look, but in the past I have had upwards of 50% fail rate with the jars sealing....which, as you can imagine, is a real bummer when you have done all of that hard work into putting them up!  My mother-in-law found this site, and I used her suggestions  regarding the use of 3 clips, instead of 2, and not sealing them all the way down in order to let the air escape.  I did not have one single jar fail this time around!  Woo hoo!!!