“Putting up” food for the winter can seem like a daunting task. had the benefit of watching my grandmother preserve jams, pickles, applesauce and more, and I still had questions when I began canning on my own.
For those who didn’t have the benefit of watching a parent or grandparent, it can be easier to simply skip it. Yet I find when people have simple, step-by-step instructions along with a reliable resource when additional questions arise, they are more inclined to try.
An interesting bit of trivia: an average of 17½ pounds of peaches would be needed for a full canner load of 7 quarts; an average of 11 pounds is needed for a canner load of 9 pints. A bushel weighs 48 pounds and yields 16 to 24 quarts – an average of 2½ pounds per quart.Because the time required to peel, pit and process such a large load of fruit can be too much, I prefer to can two quart-size jars (or four pint-size jars) at a time. It isn’t overwhelming and, as a result, I’m far more likely to do it! So, consider starting with 5-6 pounds of peaches–or even half that amount to get the feel for how easy the process is if you are new to it.
Following is a basic recipe for canned peaches and, along the way, I’ve tried to answer many of the questions people often ask. I’ve also provided background on and links to the acknowledged industry experts. Their sites included trouble-shooting for almost any question or problem imaginable. I’m always happy to answer questions, but these are excellent resources for instant, research-based answers to pressing questions.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
The National Center for Home Food Preservation based at The University of Georgia is a terrific source for current, research-based recommendations for most methods of home food preservation. They also have a helpful page dedicated to frequently asked canning questions. For more step-by-step information on how to can high-acid foods (this includes most fruits, jams and jellies, pickles, salsas and chutneys), the Ball canning company has a helpful page. (Low-acid foods include most vegetables, some fruits, and meats. To safely preserve them, high-pressure canning is recommended.)
I like to can peaches in halves, but they can also be sliced. Pack peach halves with cavity side down. They pack better and you will fit more in a jar. If you have wide mouth jars, it’s easier to place the peaches in the jar. Choose ripe, mature fruit of the highest quality possible for best results.
Light syrup – 2 1/4 cups sugar to 5 1/4 cups water (yields 6 1/2 cups syrup)
Medium syrup -3 1/4 cups sugar to 5 cups water (yields 7 cups syrup)
You can also make a syrup with honey if you prefer not to use processed sugar:
Light - 1 1/2 cups honey to 4 cups water
Medium - 2 cups honey to 4 cups water
Leftover syrup will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks and can be used in many ways. We enjoy using it for homemade peach iced tea.
Yields 2 quarts or 4 pints.
- 5 1/2 - 6 pounds peaches
- Granulated sugar (see comment section, above, for choices)
- 4 pint (16 ounce) or 2 quart (32 ounce) glass canning jars with lids and bands (I like Ball brand which are available in the canning aisle of the grocery store and many discount stores; wide mouth jars make it easier to place peaches in the jar)
- *Preparing the Peaches:* Wash and drain the peaches. Loosen the skins by dipping the peaches in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds. (Sometimes, I find the skins peel off easily without submerging in boiling water; you may wish to try first.) Dip in cold water to stop the cooking process. The skins should pull off easily. Peaches may be cut in half, quartered, or sliced. To prevent browning of the peaches during the peeling process, keep peeled peaches in "acidified" water. There are several easy options: Mix 1 teaspoon ascorbic acid crystals (Ball has a product called Fruit Fresh) or finely crush six 500 mg Vitamin C tablets in one gallon of water. I like to use 1/4 cup lemon juice for every 1 quart of water.
- *Method of Packing in Jars:* Peaches may be packed into the jars raw or hot. Raw packing is a safe method but generally results in a slightly poorer end result than hot packed peaches. Raw packed peaches are more likely to float to the top of the jar, and the jars usually loose some juice through "siphoning," which means that liquid seeps out of the jars as they are cooling. When siphoning occurs, tiny food particles may lodge between the jar and the lid causing the jar not to seal properly. Because heating the peaches drives air out of the raw fruit, hot packed peaches are less likely to float, more peaches fit into the jar, and the juice is less likely to seep out when the jars cool. (If seepage does occurs, wipe the jars clean when cool. As long as the jars seal, they are fine to use.)
- *Sweetening with Sugar Syrups:* Peaches may be covered with your choice of sugar syrup, water, or even apple, pear, or white grape juice. Sugar is not needed for _safety_ in canning fruit; but in addition to adding flavor, sugar in the liquid helps to keep the texture of the fruit firm and to preserve the color. I recommend a light to medium syrup. (I use medium syrup and the hot pack method described below; see ratios of sugar to water in above comment section.) Heavier sugar syrups will cause fruit to float more than lighter syrups or juice packs. Artificial sweeteners are not recommended as they will not preserve the color and texture of the fruit as sugar does.
- *Method of Packing in Jars and Processing:* To *hot pack* peaches, place enough peaches for one or two jars (2 1/2 to 3 pounds of peaches will fill a one-quart jar) into the boiling syrup in a single layer, and return to a boil. You will use less syrup when you hot pack because heating the peaches will draw peach juice into the boiling syrup. If you don’t heat the peaches through completely (it takes about 3 minutes for peach halves), they may still shrink a little, but not as much as if you had raw packed them. Remove the peaches carefully and fill the jars to within ½ inch of the top. Add hot syrup or other liquid to within ½ inch of top. Remove air bubbles (I gently swipe around the inside of the jar with a wooden chopstick, although there are special gadgets for this), wipe the jar rim with a wet paper towel, and adjust the lids. The lids should be "fingertip" tight (and do not tighten them further after processing--the bands can actually be removed at that point.) Process hot packed pints 20 minutes and quarts 25 minutes in a boiling water bath. Adjust times for higher altitudes (see attached link in the main body of post for a handy chart).
- *Processing* means you will put the jars in near-boiling water, making sure they are covered with 1-2 inches of water. Then bring to a boil and continue to boil with the lid on. I have a very large, heavy stock pot that I use instead of a canner. For pint-size jars, a heavy pasta pot with a strainer insert works really well, too. You do want the jars to sit on a rack of some sort and still be covered by water.
- To *raw pack*, fill the jars with raw fruit, cut side down, and add the hot syrup. Leave ½ inch headspace for both fruit and liquid. Raw packed peaches require an additional 5 minutes for processing. Process pints 25 minutes and quarts 30 minutes in a boiling water bath. Adjust times for higher altitudes.
- *Finishing Details:* After processing in a boiling water bath is complete, remove the canner from the heat and remove the lid. Wait 5 minutes before removing jars. This will equalize the temperature within the jar and reduce liquid loss (also known as siphoning) from the jar. Place the jars on a towel or rack. Allow jars to cool at least 12 hours; remove screw bands and check lid seals. Wash jars, label, and store in a cool, dark, dry place. Peaches are best if consumed within a year and are safe as long as the lids remain vacuum sealed.