Preserving Peaches

Logan couldn’t wait to try our canned peaches

This summer I’m learning how to preserve.

Scratch that. I’m learning to test the strength of my marriage.

…or maybe both.

Home canned goods really do taste like summer, completely different from grocery store “fresh” or canned produce. And I just couldn’t bear to think of going all winter before having this fantastic food on my plate again, so I dug out my canning supplies from the depths of my craft room, convinced Matt that it was cool to blow the grocery budget buying a few hundred canning jars because “they’re an investment,” and begged my friend Tesia to let me help her family can a year’s worth of tomato products so I could get some hands-on learning experience while surrounded by four other, very experienced, women. “Helping” at Tesia’s (read: getting in the way) was genius because it let me leave the mess at her place and come home with a few jars of fresh salsa and the delusion that I could somehow pull this off, all by myself.

Eleventy-million canning jars, ready for salsa, spaghetti sauce, and trouble.

Less than a week later I snagged a bushel of peaches from our favorite local orchard and thought, “I’ll just can these after dinner…”

Starting the process at 6:30pm on a school night was probably one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done, right up there next to…well, no. It is officially the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.

So I made Matt help me. As you can see, he was thrilled.

It was kind of a mess. And I learned a lot, like that despite the appearance of an enormous collection of mixing bowls, I do not in fact have enough. Never enough. Also? Fresh peach juice looks an awful lot like blood at 1am.

And an ice bath after boiling the peaches for 30 seconds is really, really important. Cold water isn’t good enough; it’s gotta be ice with a little water or you end up with a half bushel of post-apocalyptic mush.

And it takes an hour to even reach a boil in the canner on this particular stove…an hour which should not, under any circumstances, be spent arguing with your spouse about who should clean up this crime scene of a kitchen…it should totally be him.

But, like childbirth, the more time passes the less traumatic the experience seems to be and the more willing you are to do it again. So here I am, two weeks later and thinking that yes, yes I would like to can another bushel of fresh peaches.

They look really good for seconds

I got a bushel of seconds–the peaches that have a bruise or bug bite or something–for $13. How could I not want to do this again?

Oh. Right.


It made Logan Happy, See?

So it’s totally worth it.

Plus it’s always easier the second time, right?

…right? RIGHT?!?

I would suggest following my friend Karma’s blog for good step-by-step instructions you can use to supplement the Ball Book recipe and method.  I’m going to use the Ball book next time, but this time I used a non-USDA approved method and recipe from (Disclaimer: It goes against the USDA guidelines, use at your own risk and before embarking on a non-USDA approved canning recipe/method do some research and make sure you’re comfortable with its possible risks and have updated your will.).

And here’s the finished product…

I used the cold-pack method, which just adds room-temp water and sugar to the peaches and then processes them instead of making boiling sugar syrup and pouring it over the peaches before processing. It’s the method my grandmother used, too.

…not as pretty as theirs, but it will be next time.


8 thoughts on “Preserving Peaches

  1. The picture of your husband is priceless!!!! Atleast he helped. This is my first year of canning/preserving and it is addictive, but yeh,probably not a project to start after dinner.

  2. The picture of your husband is priceless. Remind me to tell you the story of my husband coming home on a 100+ degree day when I was canning pickled beets.

    On a more serious note however, I HIGHLY recommend you find yourself an extension office and get yourself a better canning recipe. The one you used could get you in all sorts of hot water –(ha,ha canning humor) The recipe does not make adjustments for your altitude, provides a method that would, (and obviously has)given you a mushy peach. I can send you one if you’d like — and it would probably even be a bit easier. Your alma mater has some of the best canning recipes on the planet — I’d spend some time on that web site and avoid killing off your family with food borne illness.


    • the mushy peaches were my fault–I boiled the peaches too long before placing them in a lukewarm (not ice) bath, and I’m comfortable with the amount of sugar it uses as a preservative (1/3 cup for a quart)…but I would love your take on why a cold pack isn’t safe (I know it’s against the Ball Book/USDA guidelines because it has to be, but I haven’t heard how it is actually dangerous)? The processing–25min in boiling water–is what kills the bacteria, etc, so why does the sugar have to be boiling first?

  3. I want to learn to can but I’ll admit I’m scared of it. Afraid I’ll give us botulism or something by doing it wrong. I’d also be worried about any recipe that goes against the Ball/USDA guidelines.

  4. OK — It’s late and I forgot to bring my books so I can quote the source, but here’s the basics.
    Canning is really more chemistry than cooking. The hot syrup added to the jars ensures the sugar is thoroughly dissolved and consistent. Once it’s added to the jars and air bubbles are removed, the theory is you’ll have a consistent liquid to fruit ratio. That then allows the process time to do it’s job — killing off any nasty critters that may have wormed their way into your jar. By dumping the sugar in with the cold/lukewarm water you’re risking pockets of air or sugar to get trapped somewhere and then allowing food born illness causing critter to grow.
    The bottom line is this: in your own home, you’re going to do what you want. The risk you run in publishing this recipe is someone getting sick and blaming you. I’m glad to see you added this disclaimer.
    As for the site, there are a number of problems with this recipe as published. Number one, open kettle canning hasn’t been approved by the USDA for years — it simply offers too many chances for the little critters to contaminate the product.
    It makes no allowances for altitude adjustments. Water boils at different temperatures at different altitudes. For example, my house sit just below 4000 feet. I have to add 10 minutes to most processing times to ensure the water is boiling long enough at high enough temperatures to kill off any “bugs”. All recipes are written for sea level. You don’t live at sea level you have to adjust.
    Banging jars on a table or towel will get you broken jars. I also see a metal knife — metal knives used to remove bubbles from canning jars cause nicks and cracks that provide a lovely place for “bugs” to hide.
    The reputable books and web sites (look for the state’s extension service based at that state’s land grant college) have great recipes and most states have food safety advisers available through the state’s extension service.
    Canning is fun and a great way to ensure the quality of food your family gets — but really, follow the rules.
    I’ll write up some basics and get them posted on Facebook and my blog and let you know when they’re up.
    No amount of time or creativity is worth a trip to the e.r. or worse.

    • Thanks, Karma! Do you just use the Ball recipe for preserving peaches, or do you have another one you like? Can you change ingredients (add cinnamon, spices, etc) to the Ball recipes and still be safe, or do you really have to just follow it to a T?

      For example, I really want to can 4 dozen pints of diced tomatoes with chilis, but there’s no Ball recipe for that, so I thought I could probably just follow the recipe for canning tomatoes (or peppers) and add chilis &salt, etc. to it…no?

  5. One of the main things with water bath canning is ensuring there’s enough acid in the recipe. Many fruits and some vegetables (and most pickles) have plenty, but I usually add ascorbic acid (powdered vitamin c) or lemon juice or vinegar to every recipe, even the ones I think have enough natural acid. The higher-acid the recipe, the less you need to worry about the water-bath canning — but do ensure you’re processing for long enough (as Karma noted, altitude can significantly change the processing time).
    Interestingly, tomatoes have been getting lower and lower in acid over the years, so unless you’re using an heirloom tomato, add a little extra acid to all old tomato recipes (like pre-1960s, which some of the great ones are).

    Spices? Add to your heart’s content.

    And *never* start canning that late. It’s like baking bread; you have to allow a *lot* of time for things to progress properly.

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