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Canning peaches is the best way to preserve surplus peaches for long term enjoyment. Although nothing compares to fresh juicy, just picked from the tree peaches, ones that were picked fresh and canned, run a pretty close second.
A pint of canned peaches make a fine breakfast when no one feels like cooking (or eating cereal...). Home canned peaches also make a super cobbler or pie. Any way you fix them, they're hard to beat.
To be able to can peaches, you first have to make sure that you are using only fully ripe peaches. If they aren't quite ripe, place them stem side down on newspaper for a couple of days. Once they are fully ripe, you are ready to can them.
A few of my favorite varieties of peaches for canning are; Harmony, Loring, and Madison. These are all fairly old varieties, and I can only find them at a local Pick-Your-Own Orchard near my home. Harmony is by far the best of the three, but they are all good for canning as well as fresh eating. If you can find any of these three varieties, get some - they're well worth the effort. Red Haven is the variety that I grow in my own orchard, and are also very good for canning.
Preserving peaches using the boiling water bath method is easier than you might think too. Here's how we do it at our house.
-Fresh ripe peaches
-Boiling Water Canner
-Anti-oxidizer (Fruit Fresh) to prevent browning
-Large sauce pan (for making packing syrup)
-Large Stock pot (2 Gallon is ideal)
-Large bowl or dish pan
-Medium sized bowl (for peelings & pits)
-Small sauce pan
-Glass canning jars
-Canning lids and rings
-Magnetic lid wand
-Ladle or glass measuring pitcher
-A couple of old towels or scrap rags
Start by removing the skins and pits (seeds). This is done by blanching the peaches as described here. This procedure is done the same way you would blanch tomatoes
NOTE: I recommend canning freestone peaches, but if you're like me, you use what's available. Clingstone peaches are usually more difficult to remove the pits from than a freestone variety, and you may have to use either a knife or spoon to remove the pits.
First, fill a dish pan or your sink about half full with cold water, and add some ice.
Then, in a large stock pot about half full of boiling water, place as many peaches as the pan will hold without boiling the pan over. Leave them in the boiling water for 30-60 seconds, then using a slotted spoon to transfer the peaches to the cold water. The boiling water loosens the skin, and the cold water stops the cooking process.
Using a sharp knife, cut the peaches to the pit along the line or ridge that runs from the top of the peach to the bottom. This is called the suture line, and if you cut along this line, you will always cut to the edge of the pit instead of the side, making the pit easier to remove. Following that line, cut all the way around the peach. If you blanched them long enough, the skin will begin to fall off in your hand while you are making the cut.
Give the peach a twist, and the pit should pull away from one side. Remove the pit from the other side using your fingers, finish removing the skin (if it hasn't already fallen off entirely). You should now have two peeled and pitted peach halves.
Continue this process until you have all of your peaches peeled, pitted and halved. I usually cut peaches into quarters, instead of halves because you can fit more peaches in a canning jar that way, but it is mostly a matter of preference.
Use an anti-darkening (anti-oxidizing) agent on your peaches to maintain their color until canning. Fruit Fresh is the brand we usually use. It is essentially ascorbic acid (vitamin C), so there's no harm in using it. Follow directions on the container for correct application.
When canning peaches, you will need to make a simple syrup to pack them in prior to canning. I prefer to use a light syrup, which is about 30% sugar. A higher concentration of sugar is just too sweet, and less just doesn't seem to be enough.
Put 2 1/2 cups of sugar and 5 cups of water into a large sauce pan. Bring to a simmer until all sugar has dissolved. You can make double batches if you need more syrup.
I always seem to make more syrup than I think I will need. When you're in the middle of canning, the last thing you want to do is stop and make more packing syrup.
-Wash jars, lid and rings and inspect for damage and defects.
-Put 2" water in small sauce pan and bring to boil.
-Remove from heat, and place lids in water.
-Fill jars with peaches and leave 1/2 inch of head space.
-Add enough syrup to cover the peaches.
-Remove any air bubbles in the jar.
-Wipe rims of jars with wet dish cloth or paper towel.
-Assemble lids and rings and apply to jars.
-Tighten lids to hand tight.
-Fill boiling water canner 1/2 full with water and bring to a boil.
-Place jars in canner and make sure all jars are covered with water.
-Bring water back to a boil and maintain canner at a low boil.
-Process 20 minutes for pints or 25 minutes for Quarts.
-When done, remove jars and place them on counter to cool.
When canning peaches, you will find that jars may take up to an hour to seal, but wait until they have cooled to room temperature to be sure.
Any jars that do not seal will have to be either eaten right away (within 24 hours) or refrigerated and eaten with in a week or two. Jars that don't seal are fairly uncommon if you follow instructions, but it does happen occasionally.
When the odd one doesn't seal, just think of it as a quality check of your work!
Canning peaches is an early summer ritual at our house. If you have ever eaten home canned peaches and tried them next to canned peaches from the store, you already know what a difference there is in the flavor.
As in nearly all canning processes, canning fresh peaches is much less expensive than buying commercially processed and canned foods. If you grow your own peaches, then the cost is even less yet. And as always, canning your own foods, will lead you toward a higher level of self sufficiency & independence.