Honestly, if you had told me at age 11 that in 13 years, I'd be sitting at a table with Matt Sanders discussing canning methods, I'd think you were insane. To put it mildly, in the 6th grade, we did not get along very well. But- over a decade has elapsed, and through the magic of mutual friends, the internet, and the contained biosphere that is Portland, OR- we have become friends, and chat sometimes on the computer, or occasionally over coffee if we bump into each other at the cafe. Recently, talk has turned to canning. Matt's doing his family a solid by carrying on canning recipes given to him by his grandmother (which is awesome, in my opinion) and today he decided to put up some peaches.
My mom canned jam frequently when I was little (and still makes freezer jam pretty often), but my involvement was usually limited to trudging up and down the big hill in our backyard with a massive bucket of blackberries, then grumbling about the heat in our muggy kitchen as I washed my scratches off in the sink. I never thought to sit down with her and learn how to do it! (for the umpteenth time- SORRY MOM.)
To the uninitiated, the idea of canning fruit seems kind of scary. Botulism, broken seals, blah blah blah- apparently when it comes to canning fruit, it's not such a big deal. Matt assures me that fruit, when put up improperly, will simply mold or give off a horrific stench- more than enough to let you know that it's not okay to eat.
If this recipe is a little too vague for you (what, has he been hanging out with my husband?):
Matt has done me the favor of detailing his process:
Prepare the syrup:
4c water + 1c honey +1c sugar. If you're really feeling it, you can add more honey. get it warm and evenly dissolved, but not boiling, EVAR. You can use heavier syrups, but I like the light kind and it's what my family has always used.
Prepare the jars:
Wash the jars. Put the jars in boiling water for 20 minutes. Put the lids and the rings in for a couple minutes. You can reuse rings, but ALWAYS buy new lids, as the seals are only good once. You can use old lids for things like freezer jam, lids on jars for frozen stock, etc., just don't trust them for another complete seal.
Prepare the peaches:
If you can, get freestone peaches, as they will come off the pit easier. these are mostly available late in the season...the closer to September, the higher likelihood a peach will be a freestone. Canning peaches need to be just a little overripe, if you've got some bruising, awesome. Don't worry about it. Pretty fruit is overrated. Stick them in some boiling water for a minute give or take. run it under cold water, and the skin will pretty much come off in your hands (except for that one I had to use the knife on). Cut them into halves, slices, chunks, whatever you want. i like halves, but that's only possible with freestones.
Cut those bitches and put them into the jars. (Editor's note: Jeez, Matt! My mom reads this! Oh wait, my mom knows that I have a mouth like a sailor. Carry on.)
Pour your syrup all over your cut peaches.
Pull out the lids and rings, and while swearing and cursing that your fingers are melting off, place the lids on, and just hand tighten the ring. Just needs to be firm, not wrenched on there or anything. Then, place the jars back into a large pot full of boiling water, and boil for 25 minutes for pint-sized jars, 30 minutes for quarts.
Turn them upside down, and they'll cool faster. Let them sit overnight, and then you can take the rings off. If the lid is bulged or you can press it in, the seal didn't take, and you should just eat them as is. If all goes as planned, you'll have a lid on there and ready to go. Wait a few months before you use them, they do need to set for a while.
And that, apparently- is all there is to canning peaches. A few notes about Matt's process- he had a handy little tool for getting the hot jars out of the boiling water- like this. I probably would have tried to use a fork or something stuck inside the jar to get it out, and I probably would have burned myself. I like his idea, better. As with any project, it seems to have gone very smoothly because he had all his ingredients laid out ahead of time, all his pots ready on the stove, etc. Good prep is always key, guys. I have to admit, I'm feeling ambitious. I might give this a try soon! I really like that his syrup has honey in it, it makes me feel like maybe it's a teensy bit healthier. And now I have a craving for peaches spooned over ice cream.