It's summer. Peaches are ripe. Everything is ripe: berries, fruits, tomatoes... It's heaven, man!
But wait! Winter will come, it really will, and all this delicious abundance shall be a distant memory.
Unless you preserve it. But many people associate preserving with lots of sugar: sweet jams, syrup-y canned fruit...
We preserve peaches by canning them with honey, which is healthier than sugar, tastes like manna from the heavens, and looks pretty.
Let me show you exactly how I can peaches and what you need to create these jars of gold.
You can modify the amount of peaches, of course. My canner happens to fit 12 quarts in it, so I made enough to fit into 12 jars.
What you need:
- 12 mason jars (it doesn't matter if they are wide mouth or regular)
- 33 quart water bath canner (or smaller if you want to can less jars)
- Canning funnel (optional, but it really hepls when pouring the syrup)
- 18 pounds peaches (or less, of course, and adjust the recipe accordingly)
- 3 cups honey
- water for hot water bath and for honey syrup (6 quarts for syrup, and half the canner full for canning)
Prepare your equipment
Make sure the mason jars are all nice and clean. Some people say you need to bleach everything – I never do. I just run them through the hot dishwasher. Some people say the jars need to be hot when you put in the peaches, otherwise the jars will crack. I don't follow that train of thought and never had a problem with my method (but please do read all my tricks and tips to prevent the jars from cracking!)
Fill the hot water bath canner halfway with water and start heating it up, so it will be almost boiling by the time your jars are ready to go in it.
Put your lid and rings into hot water. I just put mine in a stainless steel colander and put them in the hot water canner so they stay nice and hot, and it also sterilizes them in the meantime. I always re-use lids, as long as they are not dented or cracked. Other people claim you have to use new ones every time, but I never do.
Get the honey and equipment all lined up in a row, ready to do their duty.
Wash the peaches
We buy boxes of organic peaches, but even if they're organic, it's still a good idea to wash them.
Prepare the syrup
Heat 6 quarts of water to boiling. Once it boils, turn off the heat and add 3 cups honey. You don't want the honey to boil, so don't put it in while the water boils. This amount of syrup is generous – you might have some left over. You will need more or less depending on how tightly you pack the peaches into the jar, but I like having too much syrup rather than running out of it, which messes up the whole timing.
Cut up the peaches
I cut them in eight pieces because my peaches this year were really big, and I want bite-size pieces. Remove the pits.
Enlist help here! I have two preteens that are eager to eat, so if they want to eat, they have to work. They oblige happily, because they get to snack as they work. Bottomless pits, these guys!
Pack the jars
Put the peach pieces in the jar, making sure to pack them tightly. Press down on them as you pack, but not too much so they squish and sqoosh and become all bruised and messy. Press down enough to encourage them to make more space for other fellow peach pieces.
Pack all jars before proceeding.
Pour hot syrup over the peaches
Grab your canning funnel and put it on top of one jar. Carefully pour hot syrup (the glass pyrex measuring cup works great for that) into the jar. Go slowly, lest you spill it all over and burn yourself. Fill liquid up to 1/2 inch to the top.
Now comes the important part: run a knife along the sides of the jar to dislodge any air bubbles. Press against the peaches to release the trapped air bubbles.
You don't want air bubbles in your canned jars because they will lead to spoilage and prevent the lids from sealing. If there is too much air, some of the peaches might stick out of the syrup and thus discolor or develop off-flavors.
|See that air bubble in the middle? You don't want that. Run the knife along there, press against it, and it will die!|
After the first jar is filled with peaches and syrup, wipe the top of the glass jar rim with a paper towel. You just want to make sure no peach pieces stick to it and prevent the lid from sealing.
Now put on the lid and screw on the ring. I put one jar into the canner at a time. The water in the canner should be super hot by now.
Can, baby, can!
Grab the jar with your canning jar lifter and place the jar slowly, very slowly - VERY SLOWLY, hear me – into the hot water in the canner.
The reason you want to be very slow and GENTLE here is so that the jars won't break. Although the syrup is hot inside the jar, the cold peaches will have cooled it off some, and you don't want to create a huge shock in temperatures (inner versus outer).
Make sure the jars touch the bottom of the canner very gently. No shock waves, please, otherwise the glass will crack, and beautiful peaches and peach juice will spill and be wasted.
After all jars are in the canner, turn the heat on full and put the lid on.
The water should come a little bit above the top of the jars.
The water should come a little bit above the top of the jars.
Now wait until the water comes to a rolling boil. The jars have to be canned for 30 minutes, but the 30 minutes don't start when you put them in. No, no!
You start counting minutes the second the water is boiling.
|Now we're talking. Set your timer to 30 minutes.|
Keep it boiling, but don't let the jars go crazy in there, shaking and hitting each other. You might have to adjust your burner to make sure it still boils, but not over-enthusiastically.
When the canning time is over, turn off the heat and lift out the jars, one at a time, with your canning jar holder. Careful here! It will be hot and steamy.
Keep the jars upright, not tilted, and slowly and carefully lift them out of the canner. Just in case a jar broke and you don't know it, it's good to do this slowly so you won't get splashed.
Gently set them down onto a towel on a counter, not touching each other, but allowing for plenty of airflow.
Now comes my favorite part. You don't have to do this if you don't have time, but it's so satisfying. As you proudly stare at your jars of steaming golden peaches, listen for this sound: “Ping!” This is the sound of the jars sealing. Ping! Ping! Ping! Oh, how I love the Ping!
The way you can tell a jar has sealed beside the pinging is the fact that the the lid will be sucked in and not be dome shaped any more. Also, the peaches will have migrated to the top, with the bottom of the jar looking like it has an inch or so of liquid on the bottom without any peaches.
See how the jar on the left didn't seal? The peaches touch the bottom and aren't pulled up. Why? I didn't put enough syrup in. Silly me. No worries. We'll have 'em for dessert tonight.
Let the jars cool completely. When that's done, I always take off the rings, since the lids will have firmly sealed and you don't need the rings anymore. I will wash them and use for more canned goods later on.
They will keep on your pantry shelf for a long time. Chances are, they won't last long, though, at least not in my household!