A quart of golden canned peaches: it's the essence of summer in a jar. Flecked with tiny specks of vanilla, these peaches are simple, luscious, and full of sunshiny flavour. Canning them yourself is easy and satisfying. (Skip to recipe.)
Beautiful canned peaches; they're my favourite thing in jars. Who can resist these luscious golden orbs that taste of sweet summer?
There's something about preserving food that satisfies some deep primal urge, like a squirrel gathering nuts for the winter. Canning fulfills that need to gather and store food to feed our families; that basic instinct for survival and assurance of nourishment in leaner times ahead. Of course, with today's easy availability of year-round fresh produce and pre-packaged everything, preparing food for a long cold winter is no longer a necessity. It is an act of pure pleasure and satisfaction.
Taking a mound of fresh, tree-ripened peaches and turning them into these glowing jars of gold makes me happy. Opening a jar on a winter day and spooning a few halves into a bowl for a simple dessert, or to top with a dollop of honey yogurt for an easy breakfast is a delicious joy. It instantly connects me back to sunny summer days.
In addition to the wonderful mood-boosting effect - the peaches just taste fantastic!
In the beginning of August I went on a wonderful week's getaway with my mom and four sisters. We rented a holiday home in the Okanagan valley in British Columbia and just spent time hanging out and reconnecting. It had been many years since all six of us had been together, so the time was pretty special - and crazy - and a whole lotta fun. (Imagine five sisters and one energetic mom sharing a house for a week!)
The Okanagan is in the heart of wine country; a hot and sunny valley filled with vineyards and fruit orchards.
We mostly hung out on the deck of our lovely holiday home overlooking Lake Okanagan. The air was hazy with smoke from the many forest fires raging in B.C. right now.
We hiked a bit at neighbouring Fintry Park and up the nearly 400 steps to the spectacular waterfalls there.
My youngest sister and I took a different way back down and came upon a collection of inukshuks left by previous travelers.
We had to build one to leave record of our passage, too.
Even though we enjoyed mostly just hanging out at our place, we did make one foray into the rest of the Okanagan Valley to do a bit of wine tasting.
The time with my mom and sisters was a treasure of memories. We had a lot of laughs and stories to tell. There were late night gab sessions, early morning gab sessions, and afternoon gab sessions. We cooked together and just enjoyed being a family again. (There may have been
much some wine consumed, too.) And when I came home I had a case of beautiful Okanagan peaches and one of sweet juicy nectarines to preserve. Now I'll remember that wonderful trip every time I open a jar of my summer gold.
All you do is give the peaches a dip in hot water, slip off their skins, cut them and pop them into clean jars. You make a syrup of sugar, water, a squirt of lemon juice, and a vanilla bean for some fantastic flavour.
Pour the syrup over the peaches, seal the jars, and process.
They're ready to enjoy whenever you need a little taste of sunshine.
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Kitchen Frau Notes: The vanilla bean adds a lovely subtle flavour that enhances the peaches and makes them taste even more 'peachy', but you can of course omit it and just make regular canned peaches.
I've used a very light syrup for canning these peaches - they taste almost like you're eating them fresh out of hand. I like this ratio of water to sugar the best, but if you'd like them sweeter, increase the amount of sugar. Don't decrease the amount of sugar much more than what I use here, though, or your peaches may become a bit mushy. Some sugar is needed to keep the peaches firm when they are processed. The lemon juice added to the syrup helps retain fresh flavour and also helps keep the canned peaches from darkening as quickly if they are stored longer.
This recipe makes about 9½ cups of syrup; enough to fill 6 to 7 quarts. If you have any syrup left over, it makes lovely iced tea or lemonade.
The instructions for the canning process look long, but don't be intimidated - the process is very straightforward. (I'm just wordy.)
- 8 cups water
- 3 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 vanilla bean (or 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract) - omit for plain canned peaches
- fresh, ripe peaches (it takes about 5 large peaches, 2 to 2½ lbs, to fill one quart jar) - make sure to use freestone-type peaches
This makes about 9½ cups of syrup. You will need 1 to 1½ cups of syrup for each quart of fruit (the lesser amount of syrup is needed if you use sliced peaches, which pack a bit more closely together).
Sterilize the Jars: Sterilize the amount of jars you think you will need plus a couple extra. I run them through the 'Sanitize' cycle on my dishwasher. You can also place the empty jars right-side-up in a canning pot and fill the pot with hot water to cover the jars by one inch, then bring the water to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Or put the washed jars right-side-up on a cookie sheet and slide them carefully into a 225°F/110°C oven for 20 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave them in there until you use them.
Put the corresponding number of new metal snap lids into a saucepan and cover them with water. Heat them over medium heat until simmering, then turn the heat to low and keep them hot until you need them.
Prepare the Peaches: Make sure the peaches are fully ripe, or the skins won't slip off easily. Fill a large pot of water about half full and bring it to a boil. Have a bowl of ice water set next to the pot. Drop 4 to 6 peaches at a time into the boiling water and leave them for 1 minute. (If you put in more than that it cools the water down too much.) Quickly remove them with a slotted spoon and put them into the cold water. You can easily slip the skins of the peaches with your hands.
Cut each peach in half around the groove and gently twist the two halves in opposite directions. Remove the pit from the one half. Leave the peaches as halves or cut the halves into wedges if desired. Drop the cut peaches into a bowl filled with water to which a couple tablespoons lemon juice or apple cider vinegar have been added, to prevent the peaches from darkening.
Fill the Jars: Once you've finished peeling and cutting all the peaches, remove them from the water and put them into a colander to drain. Prepare the syrup by combining the water, sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla (if using). Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with the back of a knife. Place all the scraped seeds plus the pod into the water. (You can omit the vanilla for regular canned peaches.) Heat and stir just until the sugar is dissolved.
Fill the jars with the peaches up to ½ inch (1 cm) from the top. If using halves, place them cut-side-down, stacked evenly so you can get the maximum number in. If using wedges, gently shake each jar so the wedges settle and you can fit more in. Cut the vanilla bean pod into enough pieces to divide among the amount of jars you have, and tuck a piece down the side of each jar. Fill each jar with the hot syrup to within ½ inch (1 cm) from the top. Slide a butter knife down the sides of each jar and wiggle it gently to release any air bubbles. Do this on all sides of each jar. Wipe the rims of each jar with a clean, damp cloth.
Seal the Jars: Place the hot metal snap lids onto each jar (use a jar magnet or two forks to remove them from the hot water) and screw on the metal ring part of the lid until it is finger-tight (as tight as you can screw it with your thumb and index finger; tight, but not too tight or the air can't escape, since the canning process needs to create a vacuum in the jar to seal it).
Process the Jars: Place the jars in a canning pot in a rack, or in a stockpot large enough to hold the jars with room to close the lid. You may need to do them in batches. If using a stockpot, place a clean dishcloth spread flat on the bottom of the pot to prevent the jars from shaking and banging against the bottom.
Fill the canning pot with hot water to the bottom of the screw band lids. Cover and bring to a boil. Once the water is at a full rolling boil, turn it down slightly, so that it stays at a full boil but doesn't boil over. Start timing.
Process quarts for 25 minutes.
Remove the canner from the heat and leave the jars in the water for 5 minutes, then remove each jar with jar tongs or carefully using a tea towel. Try not to tilt them as you lift them from the water. Place the jars on a tea towel set onto the counter and leave them undisturbed as they cool, for at least 12 hours. (The tea towel prevents the possibility of the jars cracking as they come in contact with a cool counter.) You will hear the satisfying 'popping' sounds of the lids sucking down to seal as they cool. Do not press on the lids as they are cooling.
If any jars have not sealed you will see that the lids are still domed slightly upwards. You can test, once the jars are completely cooled, by pressing on the center of the snap lids. If the lids move as you press on them, the jars didn't seal. Store those jars in the fridge and use them up within the next few weeks.
Store the sealed jars in a cool, dark place. They are best if used within two years, but will last longer than that, as long as they stay sealed, although the peaches may darken over extended storage.
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