Almost a year ago, I canned peaches. I explained that my family has come to expect peaches at Christmas. Maybe they’re being polite, or maybe there is something special about peaches canned at the peak of the season. (I hope it’s the latter.)
Saturday, I had a kid-free afternoon, so I made a run for it. I was determined to find the most perfect peaches and can them. I put a mess of jars in the dishwasher and set it to run while I was out. The first store had peaches that were too crunchy. They had good flavor and were priced right, but definitely were not ready for canning. I went to another store. Same thing, except they cost twice as much. I decided to go to the sprawling specialty grocery store about 20 miles down the interstate. Why not? I had the time!
I struck out again. So, I returned to the first store (isn’t this always the case?), and bought about 30 peaches. I’d let them sit on my counter until they were ready. Yesterday was the day.
Canning, if you’ve ever done it, is a production. You need to block off 5 to 6 hours. Once you start, you can’t set it aside and pick it up later. You need to wear good shoes and put on good music.
The first thing I did was fill my big pot (“corn pot” it’s called in my family as it’s perfect for boiling several ears at once) with water and start to heat it. Last year, my pot never seemed to boil. Lesson learned. Then, I heated a smaller, big pot of water so that I could blanch my peaches in order to remove the skin. Next, I put peaches into the boiling water for a bit and then dropped them into a bowl of ice water. As things tend to go, I didn’t have my peaches in the boiling water for long enough. About half the skin slipped off. The other half came off with the help of a peeler. (Another note to add to my recipe-instructions.)
I cut the peaches in half before peeling. Last year I wrote a note that doing this makes cutting them easier since the skin acts as a no-slip grip. Peeled peaches are slippery! I popped out the pits and cut the halves in half.
Into pint jars went the peach quarters. This proved to be difficult. I used regular-mouth jars. My hands couldn’t fit far enough in to ensure proper peach position on the bottom. (Another note to add: try using wide-mouth jars.) Some of the quarters I cut into eighths so they would fit better and so that I could get more into each jar.
Onto the syrup. A lot of sugar and a lot of water and some “Fruit-Fresh” to help preserve the orange color. Up to this point, I was able to keep my kitchen fairly tidy. But, despite having a special canning funnel, ladling syrup into the jars is always a mess. The morning after, I found a sticky corner on my kitchen floor.
Finally, what it’s all about: canning! Boiling the jars! For 25-minute intervals (I had a few batches), I was able to clean up the kitchen and, yes, sit down and relax while I waited.
The best part is pulling the jars out and waiting, waiting, waiting to hear the unmistakable POP! of the lids sealing. I overfilled my jars. Juice oozed out of the jars onto the towels after I pulled them out. I processed 19 pint jars. One jar did not seal. I put it into my fridge. I think the other 18 are going to be okay, though.
In the middle of winter, there will be peaches that taste like summer. That’s worth driving around to 3 different stores. Worth waiting a few days. Worth the 6 hours of work in the kitchen.