Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Peachy keen, jellybean."

I spent half of my Saturday canning peaches. As much as I love canning the harvest, it's still a pretty hot and tiring process.  I mean, peeling twenty pounds of peaches by oneself is no small feat.  Anyway, I thought I would share the two different methods I used to preserve these delicious, super-ripe peaches. I'll just say now, one of those methods doesn't involve a single Mason jar or even the stove. So, really, anyone can preserve peaches for the winter months ahead!

Method #1 -  Canning

Before Saturday, I'd never canned peaches before.  For the last couple of years, I've meant to, but just never got around to it.  So, determined to actually follow through this season, I went to the farmers' market on Friday, bought a case of local peaches at a really good price (Note: wait until the farmers' market is almost over. I went during the last half-hour and I got my case of fruit $2 cheaper. I think the farmers would rather sell it for a little less than haul it back home.),  picked up some extra quart-sized jars at Walmart, and set my alarm to start early the next morning.

The recipe I followed came from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving (Seriously, a must-have guide for anyone interested in food preservation at home.).  I used the raw pack method and it was really quite easy, even for a first-timer like myself.  To can peaches, you'll need 2-3 pounds of peaches per quart, as well as some sugar and water (quantities of sugar and water will vary depending on how much syrup you're going to make and if you're making light or medium syrup).  Here's the the method:
  1. First, wash and peel the peaches.  To peel the peaches, dip in boiling water for about a minute; after a minute, immediately drain and place peaches in cold water.  This makes the peel slip off easily (though, some of my peaches still looked kind of rough because the peels were stubborn). 
  2. Cut the peaches in half, then in quarters (you can do peach halves, but I prefer smaller slices) and even in eighths (depending on the size of the peach).
  3. Treat the peaches to prevent darkening. The book says to use a commercial absorbic acid on the peaches to prevent them from darkening. I just used some lemon juice and it worked fine.
  4. Make a light or medium syrup.  I used a light syrup:  2 1/4 cups of sugar and 5 1/4 cups water. Heat over the stove and keep it hot.
  5. Pack the peaches into hot jars, leaving a half-inch of headspace.
  6. Ladle hot syrup over peaches, leaving a half-inch of headspace.
  7. Remove air bubbles by running a spatula or butterknife all around the inside of the jar, between the fruit and the glass, moving up and down.
  8. Adjust lids and bands.
  9. Process; pints for 25 minutes, quarts for 30 minutes. Adjust times according to your altitude

Not too shabby for my first time. Granted, they wouldn't win a ribbon at the fair (my hometown fair still awards ribbons for the most beautiful bottled food. Awesome.), but that doesn't affect the taste anyway. I can't wait to open a jar of these in January and enjoy a taste of summer on a snowy day!

Method #2 - Freezing

I've put a variety of fruits and vegetables in my freezer, but, for some reason, never thought to do it with peaches. Go figure. Anyway, in this month's issue of Everyday Food magazine, there's a section about freezing various types of produce, along with recipes using those same frozen fruits and veggies.  So as I was processing some of my jars of canned peaches and since I needed a break from peeling peaches, I decided to do a batch of frozen peaches, too. 

To do this, simply wash the peaches and cut in half, then in quarters, and in eighths (again, depending on the size of the peach and according to your preferences).  You don't have to worry about even peeling the peaches. Next, spread out the slices on a rimmed baking sheet, making sure none of the peaches touch.  Stick the sheet in the freezer. 

An hour or so later, once I had my counter cleaned and a lot less sticky, I pulled the peaches out of the freezer. I packed them in a zipper freezer bag, labeled it, and stuck it back into freezer. So easy! These slices are great for smoothies and dessert recipes. I plan on making this recipe for peach shortbread from Smitten Kitchen a couple times with these peaches. And like with the canned peaches, I plan on using them in January or February when my spirits could use even just a fleeting taste of summer.


Tara said...

Love your guts! I was thinking of bottling peaches and had no clue how to do it. DOes processing the cans mean to boil them in hot water? Thanks for the info!

This Place is a Disaster! said...

It seems that you purchased cling stone peaches? When canning, I make sure they are Free Stone - they are so much easier and faster to prepare.
When buyin gfrom the farmers market, you need to make sure that the peaches are not meally. Canning mealy fruit makes it fall apart and be mushy in the jar, they get mealy if the "farmer" picked them last week and didn't sell them late satruday, so in turn they had to sit on the truck for another several days OR got frozen from being refrigerated too long for those days!
[I only know from experience last year :( I wasted 50.00 last year on mealy peaches!]

Heather said...

I'm not sure if they were clingstone or not. The pits were kind of hard to get out. But, thankfully, they weren't mealy at all. They were perfectly ripe, but I know if I'd waited a few more days, they probably would have gotten way too mushy! It was good motivation to just get to work!

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