Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ping... ping.. ping

  Ahhh.... I love that sound. It makes me smile.  Why?  Because it means I've once again had a successful canning session.  This time it was peaches.  Lots and lots of peaches! I hit a great sale on them and I decided to make a lot of work for myself.  How much work? About 35 pounds worth! But it is worth every minute to have delicious cheap peaches all year long.  My favorite way to eat them, with cottage cheese! YUM. Yes this is another one of what my family would call 'odd' foods I eat.  All our kids enjoy them right out of the jar but their favorite part is the juice!  They can't wait until we empty another jar of peaches so they can drink the juice that is left in it!  So you want to make your own delicious peaches to enjoy all year long?  But you're afraid of canning? It can seem challenging, a lot like working with yeast.  But I will tell you it's not that painful, it's actually easy!  And once you get the hang of it, you'll enjoy it so much you'll start looking around for what else you can cram into glass jars and seal for another day!

So where to start, first you need some supplies.  Canning jars are one.  Back when Mr. Bacon and I decided to venture into canning, we needed to find jars, for cheap.  Looking at buying them at the store seemed like a budget burden at the time. Really it's not that bad, you can get a dozen jars for under $10 usually, but I had to search for a cheaper way.  And I found one!  Word of mouth works wonders. We let both our parents and several friends and family know we were looking for jars and they poured in. It seems there are many older people with boxes of these sitting in dusty basements just waiting for a new life.  We still get asked if we are looking for more jars (and I never turn them down!). Take your jars and make sure they are nice and squeaky clean (the rings too).  I place mine in the dishwasher and run a quick cycle. 
A few other things you need are:
Lids- always use new!
Canning tool kit
Large pot- one or two
A ladle
A few hot pads
some patience
several larger bowls and a few smaller ones
and a nice clean sink

Oh and don't forget your peaches!  Here are mine waiting to jump in the jars.   There are a few things to do to them first though.  
 Dump them in your sink and wash them.  This should be a pretty easy step! I just spray them with the water sprayer.  

Next it's time to get the skins off of them. OH don't forget to take all the stickers off too. This is a great job for the kids to do.  It will keep them in on spot for a while too!  While you are doing this, take one of your large pots ( I think mine are 8 quart size. I bought two pots a while ago just for canning) and fill it half full with water and bring it to a boil.  Place your clean, sticker free peaches in a bowl.  Dig out your favorite ladle too. Mine is a metal slotted one that was my Grandmas!  Now that you have your ladle, fill up one sink with cold water.  If you have some extra ice laying around toss that in as well!  You'll need it in a minute. 

Once your water is boiling, place your peaches in the pot for about 30 seconds.  They don't need too long in their bath.
 After the 30 seconds in the boiling water, ladle out the peaches and place them in the ice cold water bath and let them rest for a minute or two.  Magic happens then!  The peels will magically peel off.  Most will start on their own, just keep peeling and the whole skin should come off easy.  Here's a tip, this also works with removing tomato skins for things like salsa and sauces! Yes I can those too!

Once the peel is off, take a knife and slice them in half or smaller slices if you prefer.  I can mine in half because it's just less work!  Take the pit and toss it.  But save those skins you just peeled off, I have another recipe in store for those in another post!

Keep boiling, peeling and slicing until you have all your peaches done. Yes this is the long part of the process.  It pays off in winter when you are enjoying your own canned peaches with out all the other stuff they put in them in the stores.  While I slice my peaches I stop every now and then to add a bit of Fruit fresh to them, I don't measure (Mr. Bacon can add a big rant on how I measure I'm sure! That is why I don't let him on here!)  You can find Fruit fresh at many stores and it's usually right in the caning area.  If you don't have fruit fresh or don't want to buy it you can also pour some lemon juice over the peaches.  Mix either of these around the peaches a bit. I'm not shy and just use my hands for that.  But the reason to use one of these is to help keep the peaches looking nice and bright and orange after the caning process is done.  Nope you don't need to do this step if you don't want to.  Just beware that the peaches can take a brown color to them after a few months sitting in the jars.  It doesn't harm them at all. I didn't do this step the first year I canned peaches and I had some kids question what exactly they were eating that winter!

So now all the peaches are cut up, time to get the juice going.  There are several types of juice you can place the peaches in.  Some healthier than others, and some tastier. It's up to you.  For us, I always use very light syrup to can the peaches in.  This is done by placing 6 cups water and 1.5 cups sugar in a large pot (8 quart again). For this many peaches I had to do a double batch of syrup.

If you'd like little heavier syrup you can do 6 cups water to 2.5-3 cups sugar or even heavier syrup 6 cups water to 4 cups sugar.  You can also use things like splenda or fruit juice to can the peaches in.  I haven't tried that yet.  If you'd like to I've linked to my favorite canning site here.   While you are waiting for the water and sugar to dissolve and boil, take another small pot and warm up some water in there. This will be for your lids.  The canning lids need to be warmed up a bit to help them seal well.  I keep a pot on low with my lids in it so they are ready to go when I am.  If you'd like you can also microwave a bowl of water for a few minutes, and then add the lids to it when it comes out. Just make sure your water doesn't cool while you wait. 

Once the sugar has dissolved in the water it's time to add the peaches. I let them rest together for about five minutes.  Now it's time to pack the jars! Take a clean jar and place the funnel that came in your canning tool kit on top.  Oh I forgot to talk about the tool kit.  These are wonderful tools that make caning SO much easier.  Trust me, I tired to get away without them the first year I canned, it was a mistake. So for the next year I picked one up. They can be found with all the canning supplies at almost every store. They look like the one here.   So now you have your jar and funnel it's time to fill them. I use a large plastic ladle (with out slots) for this job.  I start by placing the peaches from the sugar solution into the jar.  Fruit shrinks when it's stored in liquid so don't be afraid to cram them in nice and tight.  Then ladle in the syrup until you are about 1/2 inch from the top of the jar.  Next take the plastic scraper tool and insert it along the side of the jar.  This helps any little air bubbles escape before you can. If you don't do this step the air trapped in there could still turn your fruit brown.  It's better on the outside!

All the airs out and now it's time for the lid and ring!  Take a clean wet washcloth and wipe the rim of the jar to make sure there isn't anything on it.  Then take the lid grabber and pick up a lid from your hot water. One thing to remember, is always use new lids.  You can reuse your rings from one canning session to another, but lids that have been water bath canned and processed are a one time use only.  So when you open a jar to eat and empty it, make sure to toss the lid in the trash and just save the jar and ring for next time. 
Place it on top of your jar and secure it with a ring.  Make sure they are nice and snug on there.
Now it's time for their water bath again.  I have a large water canning pot for this thanks to a wonderful family friend who was no longer caning.  Again you can pick one of these up in the canning section of your store. Or if you have a very large pot like this around your house, it will work just fine too!
Place your jars in the water bath until they are completely covered with boiling water.  The best way to get them in the water is with the jar grabber that came in that tool kit. See really for the few dollars it cost, it will probably save you a trip to the ER!  For Quart jars of peaches, place in the water bath and cover with the lid for 25 minutes.  If you are using pint jars, they only need 20 minutes.  *Please note that if you live in different altitudes you will have to adjust your cooking times like you do for other cooking.*

After I take them out of the water bath I let them sit on hot pads to cool.  This is when you'll hear the fun 'PING'!  Oh it's joy to my ears because it means that the lid has sealed on my jars. Sometimes I'll sit and count them just to make sure they've all sealed.  Yes I live an exciting life!
The next day you need to double check the seal of the jars. To do that, remove the ring and take your finger and push up on the lid a bit. You don't need to use superman (or woman!) force to do this, just a little pressure.  If the lid doesn't pop off, success!  You can either store them this way or with the ring back on.  There you have it!  Canned peaches to enjoy for months to come for pennies!  It really does save you money.  And it's not as hard of a process as it seems.  Go ahead and give it a try! 

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad to see this post! Have you ever canned pears? Would you use the same syrup recipe to do it? Thank you!