There is one blessed month a year that our local Youth For Christ group sends a truck to Colorado to get peaches. Not just any peaches mind you. But the most delicious peaches you can imagine putting in your mouth.
One year I couldn't wait for this glorious day and I bought a bag of grocery store peaches and some cream to get me over the hump. Never AGAIN! Not even heavy cream and sugar could make those imitation peaches palatable.
Every year at this time, our family attempts to eat our body weight in fresh peaches. This leads to a debate betwixt the Hubby and I. I was born and raised on peaches and cream, that is the way I prefer to eat my peaches. Hubby thinks cream on peaches is an abomination. We promised 'til death do us part, so the great peach debate isn't going to put us asunder, but it will make the kids wonder...
What we can't eat fresh, I can so we can savor this wonder all winter long.
Start with two boxes of peaches (half of what we started with!). Make sure you have good fruit. I realize this may sound kinda dumb but as my dad used to say "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear." You cannot take not-so-good fruit and can it. Canning intensifies the flavor of food and you want that to be a great flavor. Hence the reason I don't can grocery store peaches. So, moral of story: Taste the fruit before you buy it and only get the good stuff!
Sort out all the ripe ones. Why? Because peeling an unripe peach will make you swear off canning peaches forever, it's awful.
I should note that all of my peaches were ripe and were soon to be headed past ripe because we were eating them fresh. But if you buy peaches just for the express purpose of canning, make sure you only can the ripe ones.
While you are sorting your peaches, get a kettle of water boiling on the stove. This is to help peal the peaches. I drop them in 4 at a time, just my preference.
Leave them in for one minute and one minute only. We are not trying to cook the peaches. Only the very thin skin. I use a timer. This may shock those of you who know my propensity for "winging it", but when it comes to canning THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS!
Remove the peaches one at a time with a slotted spoon of some sort. Please don't try to do two at a time or they will both roll off of opposite sides of the spoon, onto the floor, leaving a big mess.
Plop that peach into a bowl of cold water. Some people would say ice water but when you're doing as many peaches as I am, Antarctica doesn't have that much ice on hand.
Use your thumbs (thank goodness they're opposable!) to simply scrape off the peach peel. It really is that easy! If you have a bit that doesn't come off that easy, chances are it was sticking out of the hot water. Just slip it off with your knife.
On the peach there is the "line" or "dimple" or "dimpled line". Using that as a guide, cut down and around with your knife. This cuts the peach in half at the pit.
If you are not holding a camera, you would use both thumbs to split the peach in half.
Then feed a slice to your son because he asked oh-so-sweetly "More peaches, Mama!"
Remove the pit from the half that has the pit by grasping and pulling. Rocket science here people...
I prefer to can my peaches in slices because I have small children and they are easier for them to eat than peach halves. However, my mom always canned the halves and skipped the slicing step. Whatever works for you is fine!!
You will want to repeat the above steps many, many times. Peaches will oxidize and turn brown in the air so I have an 8qt stainless steel bowl that I put 2 qts cold water and a 1/4 cup lemon juice (or there abouts) and keep the peaches in that until I'm ready to can them.
Check your canning book for the syrup recipe. I use the lightest syrup I can.
Measure your water...
EXACTLY!!! There are no shortcuts in canning.
Grab your trusty and well-used canning tools!
There's the load of delicious peaches (this was only less than half of my peaches!).
So what we have here on my trusty harvest gold stove is a saucepan full of simmering rings and lids, a heavy bottom kettle of boiling syrup, and a canner full of boiling quart jars.
It looks like a steamy witches cauldron, but no. Just hot jars.
Remove a jar with your jar lifter. Please, for the love of Pete (and anyone else) get a jar lifter. I tried a tongs for the first year and I was an idiot.
Pour the boiling water out in the sink, not back into the canner because you are filling that jar with food and putting it back in there and what I learned in college is that two things cannot occupy the same space. In short, you will overflow your canner with boiling water and no one wants that.
Set the jar on a plate to catch the drips. There are no shortcuts in canning, but there are messes.
Then put your grandmother's canning funnel on top. You'll probably have a prettier one, but this one means an awful lot to me!
Use your hands to scoop out the peaches. Don't use a spoon or ladle as it crushes the peaches. Hands mean better product!
Only add three or four slices at a time because any more than that will squirt out of your hand and onto the floor and we've done too much work to lose them like that!
When the jar is 3/4 full, give it a good shake to get them to settle. (Unless you are my sister who would probably artfully lay the peach slices in the jar one-by-one. I'd make fun of that except she may or may not possess pictures of me in a tube top.)
Once you've gotten all the peach slices you can get without peeking over the neck of the jar, ladle in the hot syrup.
You want to leave the recommended headspace listed in your canning book.
Wipe the rim of the jar to remove any liquid or bit of peach. If you don't, there's a good chance the seal will fail and frankly we've done too much work and are too close the the finish line to skip this step.
Remember, THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS IN CANNING!
Use your lid lifter to fish out a ring from the simmering water.
I taught a canning class where one of the gals said she just used her fingers. What??!! For a $1.68 you can skip the torture and just enjoy canning.
Get a lid...and please don't use your fingers.
Tighten the ring and lid onto the jar. Snugly, but don't wrench it on.
Place the filled jar on the canning rack and repeat until all the jars are full. Submerge canning rack and jars into boiling water bath.
Put the cover on and set your timer as recommended in your caning book. If you have a book on caning. Otherwise, use the time recommended in your canning book...
When the timer is up, remove the jars with your jar lifter.
Place them on a double thickness of towel on your counter.
And then cover them with the towel. Why?? We want the jars to cool slowly, this helps the seal to form and hold. Just leave them on the counter for 24 hours and then move them to your storage room, pantry, bomb shelter...whatever you have.
This is the second batch of peaches. Kiddo1 was up from her nap and wanted to help. Yes, that is a real knife and a real peach and she is just 3 years and 2 months old. As you can see, she takes kitchen work very seriously.
But then, there's always time to taste the goods!!