I grew up on a farm, and our garden was huge. We also had several apple trees and lived next door to an orchard, so our summers and falls were filled up with food prep for our mom. It started with peas, then green beans, crab apples, cucumbers, peaches, corn, red apples and finally beef. The garden also had lettuce and onions, summer and winter squash, and sometimes beets.
From mid July through September the routine was pretty much the same; we picked and prepped, then about 9 pm when it cooled down, Mom started processing, usually finishing between 1 and 2 am. She was most definitely a night owl!
By the end of the season, we had a year’s worth of peas, corn, green beans, pickles, apple sauce, apple slices, jelly, peaches, pears, and jam for a family of 5 1/2. (My brother was perpetually starving…)
Now, with our girls gone most of the year, we don’t need as much as we used to, but we do try to preserve a year’s worth of veggies and fruits each year. This week the peaches arrived in town. Our local Safeway had a club deal for $1 per pound, so we got two boxes. Yum!
These come from an orchard owned by college friends of DH, and they are always wonderful! While the jars and lids were on the stove to sterilize, and the syrup heating, I got the ice bath ready in the kitchen sink.
It can get a little crowded on the stove when you need a container for jars, lids, syrup, boiling water to dip the peaches in, and of course the canner needs to be heating too. I usually start with the jars and lids, then the syrup because it takes so long to boil, and then put on the water for the bath. Once I’m done with the bath, I replace it with the canner, and then add the nearly boiling water from the lids and jars.
After a 40 second bath in boiling water, the peach skins slip off like magic. I usually do 4-5 at a time, then slip the skins immediately, before doing a second batch. That will yield enough peach slices to fill 2-3 quart jars at a time. I have found that when working alone, I prefer to do it this way, so I can use very diluted lemon or salt water. I think when the peaches sit in the lemon water too long they get fuzzy on the edges. The sooner they get into the jars and in the syrup the less likely they are to turn brown.
I don’t try to remove the pits from the peaches, I just quarter them, cutting to the pit, then divide each quarter, and the slices generally pop off the pit. I fill the jars, giving each a few firm twists to settle things, add another slice or two, and fill them with syrup. A knife slipped in the edge of the jar in each “corner” removes most of the air bubbles. Once I has enough syrup in the jar, I wipe the rim with a clean, damp cloth and add the lid.
Forty minutes in the boiling water bath, (for my altitude) and they are ready to cool down and move to the pantry, once they have sealed. I use the USDA Canning Guides to determine times and for sugar water ratios for my syrup. They have canning guides guides for everything from pickles to meats. Sunday afternoon my two hours in the kitchen yielded 14 quarts of peaches, and we still have a half box left to enjoy fresh, in a peach pie, or maybe even a batch of peach jam.