Millions of Peaches, Peaches for me…

Okay, maybe not millions.  But we did tackle 30 lbs of beautiful peaches from Noggins Family Farm at our peach canning workshop. (If you’re looking for peaches, ask at your local farmers market. Many farmers will sell you bulk peaches.)

The first order of business was peeling peaches. I personally prefer my canned peaches peeled. This is completely a matter of personal preference and I know lots of people who will leave them on to save time. If you’re leaving the skins on, just give them them a good wash.

Peeling & pitting method: I find it easiest to pit first, as the fuzzy skin gives you something to hold onto. If you peel first, they are really slippery. Slice the peach from stem to tip all the way around. Hold one side in each hand and twist. The peach should split nicely in half. Cut the side with the pit in half and pop out the pit.

Place halves and quarters into a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let sit for about a minute, and then transfer peaches into a bowl of cold water using a slotted spoon. The skins should now peel off easily. Transfer to another bowl and cover with a lemon juice solution to keep from browning. (See recipe at bottom of post.)

Once you’ve got all of your peaches peeled and pitted, it’s time to make a syrup.  You can can fruit in syrup, fruit juice or water.  The reason for the syrup or fruit juice is to help the fruit retain its flavour, colour and consistency.  I’ve never canned peaches in water, but I imagine you’d lose a lot of flavour.  However, if you are on a reduced sugar diet, it may be worth a try.

This syrup chart is from the Foods of Spry’s Field cookbook, written by the Spryfield Urban Farm Museum.  If you’re in the Halifax area and are looking for a good cookbook & preserving book that covers the basics, I’d recommend this one.

Syrup Table

Type of Syrup Sugar Water Suitable Fruits
Very Light ½ cup 5 cups Pears
Light 1 ¼ cups 4 ½ cups Pears, sweet cherries, apples, blueberries
Medium 1 ¾ cups 4 cups Peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, raspberries, tart apples, sour cherries, gooseberries
Heavy 2 ½ cups 4 cups Rhubarb

Because I like to can my peaches in honey syrup, we replaced 1/2 of the sugar in the medium syrup with honey.  There are differences of opinion with substitution of sugar for honey.  Some cookbooks say replace 1/4 of the sugar with honey, some say 1/2, some do straight honey and water.  It comes down to personal preference.

And then we canned.  (See full recipe and instructions below.)

After our peaches were in jars – we got 19 pint (500 mL) jars out of our 30 lbs – we had  some really delicious peach-honey nectar left over in the pot in which we had boiled the peaches.  So, we drank it and brainstormed all sorts of delicious things that could be done with it – add it to iced tea, to fizzy water, boil it down into a thick syrup, bake it into a cake… Half the fun of these workshops is dreaming up other ideas for our ingredients.

And there you have it!  Peaches!

Peaches – Hot Pack

Yield: 7 pint (500 mL) jars
28-30 peaches

Pour boiling water over fruit and let sit 30 seconds.  Drain hot water, dip briefly in cold water and slip off skins.  Remove pit, and cut fruit into quarters.  To prevent discoloration as the fruit is prepared, put in a solution of ¼ cup lemon juice and 4 cups water.

Prepare a medium syrup according to Syrup Table (seeabove).  Drain fruit and add to hot syrup.  Bring to a boil.  Immediately remove fruit with a slotted spoon and fill hot, sterilized jars leaving ¾ inch (2 cm) headspace.  Cover fruit with boiling syrup.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace to ½ inch (1 cm).

Wipe rims.  Put on snap lids and screw bands.  Process pint (500 mL) jars for 20 minutes in boiling water bath and quart (1 L) jars for 25 minutes.

Don’t forget – there’s still time to enter our preserving the harvest photo and story contest.  Details here.

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