This is a guest post from Jennifer Murch of Mama’s Minutia. Welcome, Jennifer!
Peach canning has been known to give me conniptions, but of all the foods to can, peaches—and their stone fruit siblings—are straightforward and simple.
When buying peaches to can, choose freestone peaches such as Glohaven, Loring, Sun High. Redhaven is my all-time favorite for the ease with which they relinquish their stony hearts and for their reluctance to turn brown when cut and exposed to air.
Peaches must be fully ripe before canning. If they’re not, they’ll be pesky to pit. So once you’ve carted your peaches home, lay them out in a well-ventilated room on newspapers you’ve spread over plastic (because the peaches may ooze juice), to finish ripening.
The peaches are ready to can when a gentle finger press leaves an indentation. Keep in mind that the peaches may ripen all at once (and then heaven help you), or just a few at a time over a period of several days.
Tip: If they amass too slowly to amount to a canner load, store the ripe ones in the fridge while you wait for the others to catch up.
A bushel weighs about 48 pounds and will yield between 16 and 24 quarts.
How to Can Peaches
1. Wash, Peel & Slice
Once you have enough peaches to make it worth getting out the canner, wash them in cold water, cut them in half, pop out the pits with a knife, and remove the skin. Simply slip the edge of the knife under the skin, and using your thumb to press the skin to the knife, gently ease the juicy fruit free of its fuzzy skin.
2. Pack Jars
Slither the halves into sterilized quart jars, or cut the halves into slices first. I prefer slices. They’re easier to serve—I can scoop out some onto my kids’ bowlfuls of cereal, no extra prep work necessary.Also, I can fit more peaches into a jar, if they’re sliced, and cut down on time spent slaving over a hot canner.
While packing the jars, bang them up and down on a wadded-up towel every now and then to help the peaches settle. Use a fork to pack them down in even more.
3. Add Sugar
When the jars are three-quarters full, add the sugar. A scant third cup might be enough. Continue adding peaches until the jars are full, tamping them down as you go.
4. Add Water & Lids
Slowly add water to the jars. If necessary, use a table knife to press the peaches to one side to create a space for the water to trickle down and to ferret out any pockets of air that are lurking in the bottom of the jars. The water should reach the base of the jar neck, about ½ inch from the top. Next, wet your fingers with tap water and swipe them over the lips of the jars to remove any stickiness. Put lids on the jars and screw on the rings.
5. Process Peaches
Process the jars in a hot water bath. Your canning manual will tell you to cook the life out of them, maybe keep them at a rolling boil for 25 minutes. But my aunt, a canning queen, proceeds more intuitively. After hers have boiled, about five minutes, she lifts one of the jars out to see if the fruit has moved to the top, creating ½ inch or so of juice at the bottom. Also, after it comes to a good boil, she lowers the heat so the boiling is less furious.
I take the middle path, usually letting the quarts boil for about fifteen minutes, the pints for about ten.
6. Cool, Label and Store
Remove the canned jarfuls to a kitchen counter lined with an old towel. Don’t touch the lids while the jars are cooling.
The next day, remove the rings, wash the jars with soapy water, and label them. If any jars don’t seal (generally, out of about fifty quarts of peaches, three or four don’t seal), store them in the fridge and use the fruit within a couple weeks.
Other canning bits o’ knowledge for stone fruits
Boiling Water Bath
Peaches, apricots, and nectarines easily slip out of their skins when the fruits are first plunged in boiling water for 30 seconds. In this case, halve and pit the fruits after peeling.
Can peaches Via the Open-Kettle Method
- Fill a heavy-bottomed kettle with prepared peaches.
- Add an inch of water and some sugar, and simmer the fruit, covered. Stir occasionally.
- Cook until heated through and bubbly.
- Pack the peaches into washed jars you‘re keeping warm in a 200 degree oven.
- Put on the lids. As the fruit cools, they’ll seal.
Tip to Avoid Overflow
When processing cherries and plums with stones still intact, turn off the heat and allow the canner water to stop boiling before you lift the jars out. This helps to prevent the juices from bubbling out of the jar, a typical problem with non-pitted fruits.
A sugar syrup may be used to sweeten the fruit. This chart gives proportions for light, medium, and heavy syrups.
Skip This Step…
It is not necessary to peel nectarines and apricots before canning them.
Choose Firm Apricots
Apricots should be tree-ripened and firm, not squishy-soft (unless you want jars of apricot mush). Slowly bring them to a gentle boil, and remove them from the canner after five minutes. The fruit will rise as it cools.
Have you ever tasted home preserved peaches? Is there anything so good??