Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Love My Peaches
Canning fruit without the embellishing steps required for saucing, pie filling or jam (or some other concoction where fruit is an ingredient rather than the point) is crazy easy, not to mention fast. Two summers ago I went on a cherry glom. Last year seemed to be the Summer of the Blackberry (in plain water, brandied, in syrup - all fabulous in every way). This year finds me in love with peaches.
Canning peaches is easy-peasy and requires no special equipment or ingredients. In fact, the only thing I don't like is that extra pots and bowl are required, what for the defuzzing and all, but then I remind myself that my houseplants adore the cooled defuzzing water and I snap out of it. Start by getting your canning kettle started so it's ready when you are - with this, you are one step ahead of the process. Next, scrub and sterilize your jars - I use pints - and get your lids and rings to a simmer. Then start another large pot of water boiling. (By now you're thinking, "What? I'm seriously going to use three burners for this business? Peaches suck. I quit." But they don't, not really, and if you quit you won't have peaches in January so stick with it.)
1) When you've got a nice bubbly boil, add the washed peaches a couple at a time (you can cut a small "x" into the bottom of each if you'd like - I don't bother) and transfer into a bowl of chilly water in 30-45 seconds. After they're cooled so that you can touch them, peel and slice off the pit (I do about 1/2 inch slices, but you can do what you like - smaller tends to fall apart on me and I have no interest in peach halves, although some people love them) into another bowl of cool water to which you've added some fresh lemon or lime juice. (You may need to add ice cubes to your bowls of water to keep them cool. Not surprising since you keep putting hot peaches in them, right?)
2) Once the peaches are defuzzed and sliced, set the bowl aside. On the burner that formerly hostes the defuzzing water now put another pot (I know, I know...) with the type of syrup you like - I use very light syrup (6 1/2 cups of water with 1/2 cup of sugar) but you can do a quite sweet heavy syrup (4 cups each sugar and water) if you like, or anything in between. The internet is full of syrup suggestions, most of them fine. Some canning books offer recipes of honey-based syrups and even some sugar substitutes can be used. Do what you like, I won't judge.
3) Pack the drained fruit into your sterilized jars until the fruit is about an inch from the top, and pour in the hot syrup (carefully!) leaving half an inch of headspace. Seal with the sterilized lid and ring.
4) Process in a boiling hot water bath for 15 minutes (starting to count after the water comes to a boil once the jars are lowered).
5) Cool the jars on a tea towel and pat yourself on the back. Listen for that tell-tale ping of a job well done.
6) If you have leftover peaches, make a pie with a crumble crust. Go ahead, you deserve it. If you still leftover peaches, make ice cream. If there remain more peaches, I have to ask: how many did you start with?