There are so many quotes about trying new things, making mistakes, being adventurous, etc. so I thought I'd take that advice and try something new. New to me. No ski diving, or zip lining, just a new food preparation that has been around for years. Canning! For those of you who don't know how, please hang in there with me. You might be able to find a big box of fruit at a market, grab a few friends, pitch in and buy the equipment, and be as thrilled as I am. Canning is kind of like trying on Birkenstock sandals. It seems really strange the first few times, and you skip it. Then one day, it's the day. Today was that day!
If you took a survey of the farm women living in this county, I bet 90% or more can fruits and vegetables each summer. No fear. Just good common sense and years of practice.
I've really wanted to try it. I'm not going to make a big production out of it. Just a few quarts of peaches. The worst that could happen is that the jars won't seal and we'll have to eat them sooner than expected. The best thing? I'll have quarts of peaches at the ready, and a great deal of satisfaction.
Last Tuesday, I got a big box of peaches from a truck driving through from Georgia. My friend waited in a line of about 100 people also in pursuit of the wonderful fruit. They ripened perfectly. I made peach tarts for the Farmers' Market, ate serveral peaches, gave peaches away, and still had a worrisome amount I feared might spoil. Peach pie? Sure, then what? Canning seemed like a great idea. I know that canned peaches don't sound glamourous, but they won't be stringy, squishy or mushy. Promise.
We've canned applesauce and pickles, but never peaches. Enter the internet. I found a great preserving/canning site and read the specs for peaches. I had every thing on hand, plus the time.
First, gather the cast of characters needed for all canning jobs.
1. Giant Canning pot (cheap, can double as party ice bucket, apple bobbing, felting... you get it.)
2. Jars. Classic Ball jars - I choose wide mouth
3. Rings and Lids (always use new lids, they don't get re-used)
4. Lots of clean towels, and all of your burners on the stove.
5. Tongs and Jar Grabber
The Jars, Lids, and Rings can be found in almost any grocery/hardware store.
And for those of you who need a little more specifics, here is a jar, a ring and a lid.
This is kind of like rubbing your stomach and patting your head. Lots to do all at once.
First, get the jars clean. Run them through your dishwasher, or bring them to a boil/simmer for about 10 minutes upside down in a stock pot of water. Lift them out, and let them, turn right side up. The air will dry them quickly.
Second, fill the big pot with warm water and begin bringing it to a simmer. Start another small saucepan simmering with the lids and rings.
Now, start the syrup. I made a lighter syrup. 2 cups of sugar for every 1 quart of water. Bring the sugar and water to a boil, then keep warm.
We haven't even touched the peaches yet!
Once all the jar are clean, and the lids and rings are ready, take about 6 peaches, and gently drop them into boiling water for about 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon or skimmer, lift from the water and place in cold water. The skins will slip right off. I decided to can peach halves for more flexibility later. If you slice along the dent/fold in the peach and follow all the way around, the peach will easily separate from the pit. That part was the most fun.
Place the peach halves pit side down in the jar. Give them a push to make sure they're tight. Pack to just below the neck of the jar. Fill the jar with the syrup, to withing 1/2 inch of the top. Try to be exact for this part. Using a butter knife, slide it up and down the side of the jar, to encourage any air bubbles to float to the top. Clean the rim of the jar with a clean paper towel, then with tongs, take a lid from the simmering water and place it on the jar. Then a ring, but not too tight.
Your pot should have a stand, or rack inside to make sure water can circulate completely around the jars. Set jar one the warm water, and repeat with the remaining peaches and jars. If you prepare to many peaches at once, you risk them turning brown. It's ok to use lemon juice or pectin, but I didn't.
When you have all the jars ready, add more water to the pot so the jars are covered by at least an inch of water. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Start timing when it's a rolling boil. I live in about 875 feet above sea level so my processing time was 35 minutes.
Once the processing is complete, carefully remove the jars to a towel and allow them to cool undisturbed until cool. While they're cooling you'll hear the jars seal with little (or not so little) pops. Any jars that don't seal should be placed in the refrigerator and eaten within a few days.
I heard four pops from four jars.
I can't wait to pop open a jar (pun intended), and try the peached with some ice cream, or an old-fashioned favorite, cottage cheese. I still have 12 peaches left who I'm sure will be a pie very soon.
Try something new today!