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Peachy Goodness

August 24, 2012

Since I was a child, the end of summer has always been met with both longing and trepidation.  Trepidation because summer vacation was over. Longing because it was canning season. We would generally can peaches, apples and applesauce, tomatoes, and chili sauce.

My grandmother was a young adult during WWII, and her family, like many others, had to deal with the privations of rationing. One way to deal with that was to preserve their own food. Even if they didn’t grow their own food (they did a lot of that as well, but there were some things, like apples and peaches, they just couldn’t grow in their back yard of a Chicago suburb), going to one of the local-ish farms in the outlying areas would bring bushels of produce ready to can.

Even after the War, Grandma kept up canning. The food just tasted so much better, because she processed it after picking it that morning. When doing your own canning, you can also control the amount of sugar and seasonings that go into the final product.

As an adult, I’ve kept the tradition going. I might not be able to get locally-grown strawberries (haven’t found a strawberry farm in the area yet), but I do get local produce and turn them into yummy things. This time of year is peach season, and I have 28 pounds, minus what Conall and I have already eaten because we couldn’t wait.

Some will become pie blanks that I’ll freeze for the midwinter months when a taste of sunshine will be appreciated.  The rest will be made into peach marmalade and peach syrup and peach butter.

If you’ve never canned before, it’s not that difficult. For the type of recipes I’m including, you don’t need a pressure canner. A plain water bath will work. However, there are a few things you have to make sure to do:

  1. You need to make sure the jars are sterilized. One round through the dishwasher on “hot” with a “hot dry” cycle will work. If you don’t have that, then dip the jars into boiling water for 5 minutes (this step is different from the hot water dip to heat the jars). You don’t want any free floating bacteria or yeast in there.
  2. You have to make sure to wipe the tops of the jars after they are filled with a clean cloth. If there is a bit of food on the top of the jar, it will interfere with the seal of the lid and can allow bacteria or yeast to get into your food.
  3. You need to know what altitude you are at. The processing (boiling) time varies depending on what your elevation is. A good rule of thumb is to add 5 minutes onto your boiling time for every extra 1000 feet of elevation you have. So, for me at 6600 feet, I process my jams and syrups for 45 minutes.

Processing canned foods is relatively easy. You take the hot food (jams and syrups always go into the jars hot), and put them into hot jars (jars that have been dipped into boiling water for about a minute), cover them with hot lids (lids that have been dipped in boiling water for at least a minute), and screw on the hot twist rings (rings that have been in hot water for at least a minute).  When all the food is in the jars, you put the jars into a canner filled with boiling water and process for the amount of time your altitude requires.

Basic canning instructions: put hot food into a hot jar. Leave 1/4″ or so space at the top and wipe off the top of the jar. Cover with a hot lid (wax side on the jar) and secure with a hot twist ring. When all of the jars are filled, place into a big pot of boiling water. When all the jars that will fit in the pan are in, the water must cover the jars by at least an inch. Boil for the amount of time that’s good for your altitude. When finished boiling, take the jars out and set on a towel on the counter. Over the next few hours, the jars will “pop” as they cool, and the food is sealed. If the lid does not pop within 12 hours, you must open the jars, reheat the food and do the canning process all over again.

Now to some peachy goodness recipes:

Peach Marmalade:
3 pounds peaches, peeled and cut into small pieces
1 orange
1 lemon
1/4 c. water
1 package pectin
5 cups sugar

Peel, pit, and chop the peaches into small pieces. Wash the orange and lemon with soap, rinsing well (to get rid of the wax on the rind), then chop both citrus, rind and all, making sure to take out all the seeds.

Put all the fruit, plus the 1/4 cup water and the pectin, into a large (8 to 10 quart) pot, and bring to a full rolling boil. Once at a full boil, stir in the sugar and bring back to a full rolling boil again. Boil for at least 1 minute longer (if you are at altitude, you may have to boil between 5 to 10 extra minutes — boiling longer will not hurt the end product, so if you don’t know if your jam will set, you can always boil it for the full amount of time). After it’s finished boiling, take it off the heat, and skim off the foam. Pack in half pint jars and process as mentioned above for 5 minutes plus altitude variations.  Makes 7 to 8 half pints.

Peach syrup and butter:
18 medium peaches
1/2 to 1 c water
4 c sugar
Juice of one half lemon (to add the appropriate amount of acid)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon each cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg (cardamon goes good with this as well).
1 tablespoon vanilla

Peel, pit, and chop the peaches. Put the peaches and water into a big pot and cook until the peaches are tender. Once the peaches are tender, puree them in batches in a blender. Put them back into the pot, add the sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, and spices, and cook until everything is boiling and the sugar is all melted. Let it boil for 5 to 10 minutes, until it reduces and the sauce looks like a syrup.  Take the peach sauce and put it into a jelly bag (a fine weave muslin bag) and let the juice run into a bowl.  This part can take a few hours unless you are impatient (like me) and “help” it along with a rubber spatula pulling the solid peach particles away from the side of the bag.

When you have as much liquid out as you can get, reheat both the syrup and the solids (butter), and hot process as described above. Boil in the canner for 10 minutes for pints, 5 minutes for half pints (plus altitude variations).

Now, in my family, tradition had it that we can’t have any of our canned produce until the first snow. Part of that is so the flavors can marry, and so that there would be enough yummy canned goods to last until the summer and fresh fruits and veggies are plentiful again. However, I live in a climate where the first snow can be as soon as September 15 (no, really, it was three years ago) or as late as November 23. I used to live in the south, where the “first” snow fall after canning could be a year and a half later. So I went with an arbitrary time: November 1.

That doesn’t mean the food won’t be good before then. It just means that sometimes I have self control! No, really what it means is that I still have some left from that one jar that wasn’t quite full and I put it into the refrigerator to eat immediately.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. vesta44 permalink
    August 24, 2012 11:05 am

    I remember when I was a kid and my mother bought bushels of corn, green beans, and we picked baskets of strawberries to be frozen. She worked a job outside the home and didn’t want to take the time to do a garden or try to force us kids to do the work necessary to maintain one, so we bought from local farmers. I did so much of that when I was a kid (and it was a hated chore for me) that I never wanted to do any of it as an adult. The only thing I ever wanted to can was apple butter (because my grandmother made the best apple butter and she gave me her recipe) and I love its cinnamon-y goodness. I haven’t made any apple butter in years now – I don’t where I’d store it if I made it, our house is so small, it just doesn’t have room for anything like that (and I don’t have the energy it takes to do that much work anymore either 😦 ).

    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      August 24, 2012 11:33 am

      Would you like to share the recipe? I’m going to be going apple picking in a few weeks, and have been looking for a good apple butter recipe! 🙂

      • vesta44 permalink
        August 24, 2012 12:12 pm

        I’ll look through my recipes and see if I can find it, then I’ll post it here (it will be later on today, we have to go to St Cloud this afternoon to see if we can find a ramp that will fit the back of my minivan to load my new mobility scooter).

  2. August 24, 2012 11:58 am

    thank you SOOOO much for this. i am super lucky that we have a wonderful farmers market like 3 miles from the house. There is always food to use there. I am a cook and a foodie and have made apple butter, pies, peach pies ect before. I LOVE making apple butter, and look forward to trying your peach butter. I have always wanted to try canning but was very intimidated by it. You broke it down nicely and made it seem fairly simply. Really all i have to do is hot stuff into hot container, cover with hot lids, cover THAT with hot water in a big pan and boil away?

    huh im going to try this. i will let you all know how it goes.

  3. vesta44 permalink
    August 24, 2012 5:31 pm

    Vesta’s Grandma’s Apple Butter Recipe
    4 lbs of good cooking apples (but you can use any apples, Grandma used Golden/Red Delicious, she lived next to the apple orchards in Brewster, WA)
    1 cup apple cider vinegar
    2 cups water
    Sugar (about 4 cups, see cooking instructions)
    2 teaspoons cinnamon (I added 3 tsp because I love cinnamon)
    1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
    1/2 teaspoon allspice
    1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (this is optional, Grandma & I liked it, so we use it)
    grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

    Equipment Needed
    1 wide 8 quart pan (stainless steel works best)
    food mill (mine was a steel cone with a wooden pestle to push the cooked fruit through)
    a large 8-cup measuring cup (to pour)
    6-8 8 oz canning jars/lids/rings

    Preparing the fruit
    Cut apples into quarters, remove bad spots/stems (don’t peel or remove cores, the pectin is in the skins/seeds and you need that)

    First Stage Cooking
    Put the quartered apples into the large pot, add water and vinegar, cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cook on simmer until apples are soft, about 20 minutes.
    Remove from heat.

    Ladle the apple mixture into the food mill (place a large bowl under the food mill) and use the pestle to force the pulp into the bowl below (the apple skins/seeds/cores will stay in the food mill and these can be discarded/composted).

    Measure the pulp from the bowl and add 1/2 cup sugar for each cup of apple pulp. Stir to dissolve sugar (I put the measured pulp back in the pan on the stove and start heating it when I add the sugar, it helps dissolve it more easily). Add a dash of salt, the cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg (if you’re using nutmeg), lemon juice, and rind. Stir to mix well, taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

    Final Cooking Stage
    Cook uncovered in a large, wide, thick-bottomed pot on medium low heat, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Scrape the bottom of the pot while you stir to make sure a crust is not forming at the bottom. Cook until thick and smooth (about 1 to 2 hours). A small bit spooned onto a chilled (in the freezer) plate will be thick, not runny. You can also cook the purée on low heat, stirring only occasionally, but this will take much longer as stirring encourages
    evaporation. (Note the wider the pan the better, as there is more surface for evaporation.)

    When it’s done cooking, put it in the hot jars (heated with the hot water bath, same for the lids and rings), put the hot lids and hot rings on the jars, then cook in the hot water bath for 15 minutes (plus the 5 minutes for every 1000 feet of elevation, of course). Then set on the counter to cool (and wait for the lids to pop).

    I was never able to make this small a batch of apple butter (neither was Grandma, she usually tripled or quadrupled the recipe, her son [my uncle that’s six months older than me] liked apple butter on everything, and I do mean everything, down to pork chops and kidney beans… I usually at least doubled the recipe.
    Bon appetit.

    • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
      August 26, 2012 3:56 pm

      Thank you! I can’t wait to try it out!

      • Diane permalink
        August 27, 2012 2:15 pm

        FYI, goldens are a better cooking apple. Red Delicious is grown to be pretty & to eat out of hand. (I know this because I grew up in an orchard in Yakima, WA). If you go to a farmer’s market, ask them what varieties they have for cooking, they will steer you in the right direction 🙂 P.S. When I was in middle school I wanted to change my name to Bronwen.

        • bronwenofhindscroft permalink
          August 27, 2012 2:24 pm

          When I was a child, I wanted my name to be anything but what it was.

          When I grew up, I realized I didn’t have to stay with the name given to me by the ‘rents. So I changed it. 🙂

          That’s the beauty of being an adult: I can do things like that. Oh yeah, I can go out an buy all the kewl toys they have out these days! 😉 (Yes, yes, the downside is all the responsibility of job, bills, cooking, cleaning, etc etc etc, but I’m choosing to focus on the good stuff right now! 😉 )

  4. The Real Cie permalink
    August 25, 2012 1:24 am

    I love peaches over vanilla ice cream. Or with just about anything.

  5. August 26, 2012 12:45 pm

    Sooooo glad to hear someone else preaching the usefulness and beauty of home canning! I’ve written about it on my blog. I was scared to death to try it, but it’s really not hard. Just takes a little practice.

    I do suggest canning classes if you can manage it. Google your state’s name and “extension classes” and many states will have a selection of various canning classes and other things available through the ag dept of your state university. I had learned how to can but took these classes this summer with my daughter, and learned some things I didn’t know. Well worth the time and effort.

    If there are no classes in your area or you want to get started later in the season, my favorite canning book is “Put ‘Em Up” by Sherri Brooks Vinton. Lots of good canning books out there to choose from, but hers has some of the clearest and simplest directions for the basic canning process I’ve found, and she has her book organized by type of fruit, which is easy to use. Another good one (and website) is And you can find many videos on YouTube etc. demonstrating how to do all this.

    You do want to use recipes that have been tested for safety, esp for anything involving tomatoes. The right combo of acidity is important for safety. The best resource for that is Ball’s website, LOTS of good recipes there. Or Georgia’s National Center for Home Food Preservation, They have a good book available by mail order, “So Easy to Preserve,” and lots of online stuff too.

    There are several different types of pectin and each works a little differently. The easiest for a beginner is Sure Jell, and it’s very easy to find in stores. Canning recipes often call for huge amounts of sugar, but if you want to lower the sugar in your recipes, you have to use particular kinds of pectin specially made for that. Sure Jell in the pink box is one, and it works well. (LOVE their Strawberry Freezer Jam recipe!) Another is Pomona Pectin, where you can adjust the amount of sugar even more because its pectin action works differently.

    Thanks for the peach butter and apple butter recipes. I have a whole bunch of peaches sitting in the garage right now, so I may just try the peach butter recipe! I already make my own applesauce, which for me is halfway between chunky applesauce and apple butter. Soooo sooooo goood. However, I may try the apple butter recipe here too, just for fun.

  6. August 26, 2012 12:52 pm

    I pickle things…pickles, beets and chili sauce (like a relish but not sweet and not as watery as a salsa)…..I didn’t get to do it this year…next year it is.

  7. August 26, 2012 1:08 pm

    Mmmmm can’t wait to try it! I have a peach tree in my yard and I was told that next year it will bear fruit for sure! Has anyone ever heard of the Greg Brown song, Canned Goods? It is a delightful folk song/story about his Grandma’s canned peaches. Thanks for such a sweet post!

  8. thegoddessishtar permalink
    August 26, 2012 2:04 pm

    Are you sure those canned peaches aren’t about something else *LOL*

  9. David permalink
    August 28, 2012 4:02 am

    Canned sure sweet n syrupy mmmmmmmmmmmmm yummy yum

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