There are several orchards in this area that grow peaches. We have wanted to can our own for several years but haven’t gotten around to it – until this year. Some of our friends made a trip to the orchard for peaches and kindly picked up three bushels for us. We tried to estimate how many we might eat in a year, so we will see how this turns out.
The first thing we did is eat two or three, then we sorted them out. Most of them needed to sit and ripen for a few days before they were ready to can. The really soft ones we set aside to eat first.
We have planted fruit trees, but we have never been very successful at growing anything. We will keep trying. But for now, it is nice to have fresh fruit to put up. And did I say these are good? I really like peaches.
This picture is only half of the peaches (and some whey left from making cheese and the harvest from the garden for the day).
The first thing we made was peach butter. We had great luck with pear butter last summer and like the simplicity of the recipe. So we tried our luck at peach butter.
The recipe is fairly simple, but I didn’t follow it exactly, of course. We did an experimental batch to see if it was good before we made more. It is good. Really good. It kind of tastes like peach cobbler without the crust. I also didn’t get any pictures. So I will just describe it for you.
Peel, pit and slice or chunk 9 lbs. of peaches. In a stainless steel pot, combine peaches with 1/2 cup water, 2 tsp. grated lemon zest (I used dehydrated orange peel) and 6 tbsp. of lemon juice (or the juice of one lemon). Boil gently until peaches are soft – about 20 minutes.
The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving recommends using a food mill or food processor to puree the peaches, but I used my potato masher. I took about half of the peaches out and put them in another pan just for ease of working, then took my time and mashed them up. They aren’t consistently smooth, but that’s okay with us, we like a little more texture. This step will be a personal preference in consistency.
Next, return all the peaches to the pot and add 3 cups sugar (if I followed the actual recipe it would be 8 cups of sugar – way too much for us), 1/4 tsp. almond extract, 1/8 tsp. nutmeg and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon (these spices are not in the original recipe). Stir until the sugar dissolves, bring to a gentle boil and simmer until thickened to the desired consistency. Since I use much less sugar than called for, my butter doesn’t thicken up as much, but it holds together fairly well when chilled. It isn’t runny, but isn’t smooth and buttery textured either. The last step is to process it in a water bath for 10 minutes (for pints). The most time consuming step is letting it cook down to consistency.
Next came canning peach slices. If you have read some of the other posts, you know by now that we use minimal sugar.
The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving has a great table that shows how to make ultra light syrup for canning fruit. I didn’t use quite as much as it calls for, but almost. 5 cups of water and 1/3 cup of sugar – we did 5 times this much.
The first step is to blanch the peaches to loosen the skin. Put the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds to one minute then move them to a sink of cold water.
We added ice to the water in the sink to keep it cold.
Next skin the peaches……..
We blanched about a bushel and a half – enough to fill up the dish pan. We weren’t sure how many quarts this would make, so we stopped there for the first go round.
Slice them. Fill the jars with peaches, fill with syrup, wipe the rim, seat lids and rings and place in canner.
Our water bath canners hold seven quarts and we are using both of them. Round one goes well and uses a lot of the peaches. We have enough left for six more quarts.
Shortly after we started the last batch, one of the jars broke so we got to fish out some floating peaches. It’s the one in the back that’s higher than the rest. We couldn’t find anything wrong, so it must have been a jar with a weak place. The bottom broke off all the way around in one piece.
Day One = 19 quarts of sliced peaches and 8 pints of peach butter
We got started earlier on day 2 so we thought we would be finished at a decent hour. This was not the case. First we washed up the jars from day one, labeled them and got them put away.
Time to get out more jars and get them washed up and ready to go. You know, we have named the dishwashers here – Frank and Fern.
Since we wanted to use both water bath canners, we got out our hot plate to heat the syrup on. This really filled the cabinet up, so we had to be very organized.
Milk buckets sure do come in handy. We have our rings and lids in the bucket with boiling water over them.
Here is one of the batches fresh from the canner.
12 hours later, we were very, very tired. But the peaches are finished and beautiful to behold.
40 quarts of sliced peaches
26 pints of peach butter
2 tired people
Growing, processing and canning your own food is a lot of work. I have great respect for our ancestors that grew and preserved what they ate – or they didn’t eat. We all know that changes are in the wind for our country and our world. We don’t know when, what kind or to what degree, but we do know they are coming. I continue to urge you all to learn something that will be beneficial to your family now and in the long run. Now is the time to learn while failure is still an option. Yesterday Frank was talking about using up some of the store bought green beans we have on the shelf. So we made a green bean casserole for lunch at church. He said if we don’t grow enough this year to can and replace them, we will go the store and get more. We still have that option, and I am grateful we do. It may not always be the case.
Until next time – Fern