I’ve been canning for the past month. It all began with peaches, moved into various forms of tomato products, shifted to pickles (cucumbers only) and has now turned to a quick adventure in plums. It was all partly inspired by Food in Jars, often joined by KEL, and informed by Bernardin.
This began with a bushel of peaches. They were supposed to be free stone, but were not. Nor did they peel the way we expected. You know the idea of: cutting and “X” in the end, dropping in boiling water for a minute, dropping in ice water, and then the skins should slip off easily. Nope. these must have been not quite ripe enough, because we ended up peeling for hours (KEL went and bought another peeler, which was surprisingly hard to find!), cutting away the not-free stones, and then ending up with piles of peaches in various states of disassembly.
(I should note also that I seem to recall reading somewhere that peaches only peel with that boil and cool method when they’re very ripe, and quite dark. I think it has something to do with a protein in the skin, the same one that makes them red, which is the same one that makes tomatoes red. but don’t quote me on that, because I can’t find the source of that information. The bottom line is: don’t expect it to work for you. And get a sharp peeler!)
After making 15 quarts of yer classic peaches in syrup, we began to diversify. While I continued to peel and chop, KEL began digging through the Bernardin book for more recipes. We settled on jam, butter and rum sauce, all with peaches as their base. This plan entailed another trip to the store by KEL, this time for Certo and sugar. To be honest, she was supposed to go to the dentist (ironically) so she was going to get these on the trip home. I’m telling you this so that you don’t think I was using her to just fetch stuff. Remember, I was cutting while she was reading, so we were equally balancing the hard and not so hard tasks!
When all the dust settled (and peels and stones were in the composter, and boiling sugary liquids cooled and snap lids inverted) we had: 19 quarts of peaches, five with mint leaves added for fun; 9 little jars of peach rum sauce; and an uncounted number (probably about 7) of 250ml jars of peach jam and peach butter. When you consider that we began with over a bushel of peaches, and we actually processed most of them, this is a small number. However, it was a freaking 11 hour day, so I think we did enough!
I have not yet tried the jam or rum sauce, but the butter was pretty good. The canned peaches will sustain me through the winter, so I’m not touching them. My goal in all of this, of course, is to have access to this bounty through the winter… why would I open canned peaches when I can still get nice, local fresh ones?