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Canning Peaches with the Mamas

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Yesterday was just one of those days that I will hold in my heart as a treasure.  Many of my friends have been interested in learning how to can, so I arranged a party for canning peaches!  It was an entire day of peeling, slicing, filling jars, and laughing, while little ones played and hung on our legs.  I came home smiling and smelling delightfully like a sweaty peach.

I ordered nine boxes of peaches (20 lbs each) from a local farmer, and had each friend bring a case of quart jars and food for snacking.

boxes of peaches

I hauled my canning gear to my friend, Emelia’s house, she has a huge, open kitchen, perfect for canning and watching kids.

canning party

It took all day, but with so many hands, the workload was easy!

Canning Peaches

We used the “raw pack” method, which means that you load the sterile jars with freshly peeled and sliced peaches, then pour in a hot syrup before you put the lids on the jars and load them into the canner.  To ensure the correct processing time in the water canner, the contents of the jars need to be as close to the water temperature in the canner as possible, and hot syrup will do just that!  Cool jars would lower the temperature and the water would not be boiling for the full processing time, meaning the yeast, mold and bacteria would not be destroyed.

I’ve canned peaches from this farmer before, and they are amazing!  These are “freestone”, which means the pits come out clean, making slicing easy.  The variety is O’Henry, which has a beautiful flavor, yet still a little firm when ripe.

Peeling and slicing is the most labor intensive part of this work.  Dipping peaches into boiling water for about 30 seconds helps loosen the skins.

pealing peaches

Not all of our peaches peeled this easily, so we used vegetable peelers and paring knives.

slice peaches

You can cut the peaches in halves, but we preferred to slice them, more can fit in a jar this way!

peaches in lemon juice

To keep peaches from browning, soak them in a large bowl filled with cold water and a few tablespoons of bottled lemon juice (see our big, white pot in the group picture above).

peaches in jar

Press as many slices as you can into the sterile jar, wiggling them around to get rid of big air pockets.

canning peaches

We used “extra light” syrup, which is 1 1/4 cup of sugar and 5 1/2 cups of water.  Bring it to a boil and pour over the fresh peaches, leaving 1/2 inch of head space.  The “Ball Blue Book of Canning” has several recipes for syrups, which are all tested and safe options to use.

Before you fill the jars, set the lids in a small pot of hot water (not boiling) so the rubber can soften, which will ensure a proper seal.

Once the jars are full of peaches and hot syrup, wipe the rims clean with a fresh cloth.  Any particles stuck to the rim might keep the jar from sealing correctly.

Carefully place the hot jars in the boiling water in the canning pot.  Replace the lid and process 30 minutes (25 minutes for pints), if you are above 3,ooo feet elevation adjust your processing time accordingly.

jar lifting

I’ve found the safest and least messy way to transfer the hot jars from the canner to cooling area, is to carry the lid upside down under the hot jar, with a potholder.  This keeps the hot water from making a slippery mess on the floor and gives you a little protection if a little one gets tangled around your legs (we had 2 mamas keeping kids out of the way during the hot jar transfers).

canned peaches

Lay clean towels on a table or counter, where the jars can sit undisturbed for at least 12 hours.  The lids will start to pull down and seal within a few minutes of being out of the canner.

Once the lids have dried, check the seals by gently pressing the centers, if they bounce they are not sealed.  Put in the refrigerator and enjoy!
Using a permanent marker, write the date on the lids and be sure to use within 12 months.  If the jars are sticky, remove the rings and gently wash.  If sticky jars are not washed, the rings can get stuck and mold can grow on the outside of the jar, yuck!

Canning peaches is hard work, but sharing the load is a sweet way to pass the day and build community.  I’m still smiling thinking about what an amazing experience it was to get friends hooked on canning!

Take a peek into my world of Eating, Gardening, Making and Mothering, authentically and with meaning. Thanks for visiting!
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