I have such mixed feelings about social media. Even though I’m kind of addicted to Facebook (and when I say “kind of,” I mean “embarrassingly, to a degree I don’t even want to admit”), I hate how it has made online relationships stand in for real, face-to-face relationships. On the other hand, Facebook has the powerful ability to connect you with people you never expected to see again–even to connect you in person. Such is the case with the story of my morning spent canning peaches with Andrea.
Andrea, who I must have met around 4th grade, and I are Facebook friends. We saw each other at our 10-year high school reunion, but other than that, like most casual high school friends, haven’t kept in touch. A couple of weeks ago, she posted that she was looking for someone who can can (like “preserve food in jars,” not like “dance a la risqué 19th-century French ladies) and might be able to each her. I happened to comment that I had some experience with canning and would be available to show her the ropes if she ever wanted to drive out to my house. (We live about 45 minutes apart.) Frankly, I didn’t expect her to take me up on it. You know, that whole “Facebook is for safe, quasi-anonymous connections” idea. To my surprise, she did–and I’m so glad, because we spent this morning putting up peaches, and it turned out great!
Not only was it fun to spend a morning with someone I go back so far with, but Andrea also has a little girl about the same age as mine. They spent the three hours or so bossing each other around playing while Andrea and I got to work. I’d like to think they absorbed something by watching their mommies commune with the spirits of homesteaders past.
Why peaches, you might ask? Peaches seemed a good choice for preserving in this heading-to-fall season….however, my car thermometer said it was 99 degrees at 8pm tonight, so I use the term “heading to fall” loosely. While it may still be hot as the dickens here in Mesa, peaches are on their way out. Soon they will be out of season, their prices will rise, and the moment for canning will have passed. To me, the point of canning is to strike while the fruit-price-iron is hot. Get the best bang for your buck with whatever you’re preserving. That way you won’t have to pay outrageous prices in order to enjoy an out-of-season food down the road. Of course, you can buy canned peaches in any season, but that’s not nearly as fun as knowing you did the work of putting them up yourself!
For our project this morning, we used the directions on PickYourOwn.com, but since you’re already here, I’ll give you the written-out play-by-play. Sorry for the lack of pictures for each step–guess I’ll never be The Pioneer Woman–but hey, if I’m canning, I must be channeling the pioneer spirit! Thanks again, Andrea, for making the drive and tackling this project together!
Lemon juice or Fruit Fresh
Large stock pot
Canning jars, lids, and rings
1. Select a large quantity of ripe peaches. For canning, they should be at the same ripeness as you would enjoy eating them. We used 30 yellow-flesh peaches for a yield of 12 pints. Rule of thumb is 5 peaches yields 1 quart.
2. Wash and peel the peaches. (We tried blanching ours in boiling water to get the skins to slip off, but if the peaches are not ripe enough, this won’t always work…and it didn’t for us.) Cut into 1/4 inch thick slices and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice or Fruit Fresh (a canning product that protects fruits from unsightly darkening). Stir to coat all sides of fruit. This can be done ahead of time.
3. Prepare your jars by sterilizing them. If you happen to be able to run them through your dishwasher just prior to canning, they will come out sterile. Otherwise, place them in boiling water for 10 minutes.
4. Prepare your lids by placing them in a bowl of hot water.
5. Meanwhile, make a simple syrup to pack your peaches in. For our 30 peaches, we used 2 cups of sugar and 6 cups of water. Bring water to a boil, then slowly stir in sugar until it dissolves.
6. Add peach slices to the simple syrup and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes.
7. Ladle peaches and syrup into sterilized jars (a canning funnel is a helpful tool for this). Leave 1/2 inch headspace (distance from the top of the jar). Use tongs to remove lids from hot water and place on top of jars. Screw rings over the lids until firmly in place, but not overly tight.
8. Place sealed jars in a large pot of boiling water that will cover them by at least 1 inch. Boil for 20 minutes. (This is called processing and is what allows the food inside to be shelf-stable).
9. Using tongs, remove jars from boiling water and place on a flat surface where they can remain undisturbed for 12-24 hours. As the seals pull all the way down, you will hear a small pop from each jar–it’s a wonderful sound that means you did it right! Leave the jars untouched and undisturbed for at least 12 hours. Then enjoy–now or later!