Peaches!

We will now take a break from our regularly scheduled foster care blog to talk about canning peaches. Feel free to skip if you are so inclined. :)

It all started when my grandparents gave me their pressure cooker. This thing is probably from 70's, maybe older than that, who knows. It's old. And huge. And bright yellow. But gardener/hippie that I am, I was definitely excited about the idea of canning. Canning what? Oh, you know. Whatever.

For Christmas I asked for canning stuff, and my sister got me this totally rockin' canning book and my mom and dad got me the necessary canning supplies (like a jar-lifter, bubble releaser, jar grabber, etc.). My parents also got me a new seal for the pressure cooker, since the one that my grandparents gave me was totally worn out. I installed it and tested it - success!

I actually read my canning book over the winter (yes I am a freak) and, looking at some of the volumes and yields, thought that if produce gets below a certain amount then it could possibly be cheaper to even purchase fruit from the store and can it at home for less than it would cost to purchase the cans. No I did not count the cost of electricity (and time) because I am not that much of a tightwad. But the idea of canning just appeals to me! I mean, how cool is it to know exactly what went into your jars of stuff, right? And to know that you didn't put any bad peaches into your cans? And to know that your jars are actually FULL of peaches, as opposed to 1/2 empty which happens to me pretty regularly with the ones I buy.

So anyway, peaches from South Carolina are on sale at a local store for 77 cents a pound. I figured, what the heck, I'll give canning a try.

I made several mistakes, which I will outline for you.

Mistake #1 - Picking peaches that aren't ripe enough. I had this problem because when I choose fruit from the store, I always err towards the side of un-ripe. Honestly I like a bit of that sour kick - I like my peaches nice and firm, the same way I like my pears. I like my bananas a little green. So anyway, even though the directions said that your peaches should be nice and ripe, I just didn't do it. My bad, OK! I was wrong. Some of the reasons this matters:
- Skins don't slip off as easily when the peaches are not all the way ripe. I had to hand peel about 1/2 of the peaches - if they would have been fully ripe the skins would have slipped right off.
- It can cause fruit floating, which is where the fruit floats in the jars. It doesn't look nice, and I have read differing opinions on whether it is safe to eat or not as not all of the peaches may be submerged in the liquid.
- I don't know what the taste/texture difference is, but I'm sure there is one.

Mistake #2 - If you are ever canning anything that you have to hot pack (i.e., cook ahead of time and pack into hot jars, then submerging them directly into the canner filled with boiling water), make sure you have two ENORMOUS pots. I am not talking about your normal big pot that you cook chili in. I am talking about having two huge stock pots. If you are going to buy a water bath canner, just go ahead and buy two - one for cooking the food in, one for doing the canning in. Next time I am canning anything that I need to hot pack, I am going to buy another huge pot. I don't know where I am going to put it in our house, but I'm getting one, darn it! I filled up our two biggest pots when I was cooking the peaches to hot pack, and they were both full to the brim. It was dangerous and I definitely spilled a lot of boiling water which is never a good idea.

Mistake #3 - They ain't kidding when they say that you need to buy freestone peaches! Several of the peaches which were actually ripe literally turned to mush in my hands in my endeavors to remove the pit. Stupid pits! In my defense I had no idea what "brand" of peaches I had, since I just bought the ones labeled "South Carolina Peaches". For all I know it could have been a bunch of different kinds.

Mistake #4 - This isn't so much a mistake but just a point - Buy fresh, buy local. Seriously. Can what's local in season, whether you grow it yourself or get it at the farmer's market or whatever. You know what you're getting, less people have touched it, all that stuff. Plus it didn't travel thousands of miles to get to you, and probably wasn't picked before it was ripe.

Mistake #5 - Using peach halves. The recipe called for it, but said you can slice or even dice your peaches...just that halved ones look nicer. Well, news flash, I suck at packing peach halves - some of my jars I think I could have gotten more peaches into which kind of stinks. Also some of the peaches were too big to fit into the mouth of the jars without some serious man-handling. Next time I am totally slicing them.

Mistake #6 - Not having enough water vessels. Maybe we just don't have that many pots, but I used all of our pots, two large mixing bowls, and wished I would have had at least one or two more large vessels. You have to have something to boil the peaches in, something to hold cold water to put them in after you boil them, something to put lemon juice and water and peaches in while they are waiting to be cooked (after you peel and pit them), something to cook them in with sugar water, something to keep the jars and lids hot waiting for the peaches to be cooked, and then ultimately the giant pot of boiling water for the actually processing of the cans. Some of these problems would have been fixed if only we would have had that second large stock pot.

So anyway, some other interesting things - I bought 17.5 pounds of peaches (what the recipe called for) and ended up with lots and lots of leftovers. Unfortunately I already blanched them (I didn't cook them, see above where my cooking pots were full to the brim)...I see some peach cobbler in our near future! 17.5 pounds was supposed to yield 7 quarts. I would say for me it was more like 15 pounds. But again, I now have some space in my jars so I could have packed better.

So basically I am an expert canner now. ;) The jars have to sit until 4 p.m. tomorrow, and then I will test them to make sure they sealed properly. If they didn't, all of my friends should probably be prepared to receive a jar of peaches that needs to be consumed in the next week because there is no WAY we are going to be able to eat that many peaches in a week! I am really hoping at least some of the sealed. I think I did everything right. I know that sounds weird, looking at the list of mistakes above. :)

All in all I feel pretty good about the whole thing. It took me about 3 hours, including 17 trips to the computer to google the various issues that I was having. Also it was pretty hot work, and would have gone much faster if I would have had a friend to help me - 17 pounds of peaches is a LOT to peel and halve and remove the pit from. Ugh. Next time I am going to try to stick with something that isn't so labor heavy, such as tomatoes (as in, I don't want to be removing pits! ever again!).

Comments

  1. A learning experience and maybe a bit of nice diversion from the court stuff and kids. Hope you like canned peaches!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cling! I bet they were cling peaches!

    ReplyDelete
  3. haven't finished reading yet, but why no pictures?!? :) the one post that you can ;)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yea! Check out Jackie Clay's blog on backwoodshome.com. She has all sorts of tips for canning.

    I canned peaches once. I stick to green beans and sauces now.

    As far as the large pot go, get one that is slightly smaller than your black granny. That way it can nestle inside of each other and save storage space.

    In Colorado, we can't give home-canned goods to the foster kiddos. Even though I list it as my hobby, it's in my homestudy, it's in my cabinets, I had to swear to never give them home-canned goods.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I know that licensed daycare providers aren't supposed to give daycare kids home canned food here, but I haven't heard anything about foster care kids. I googled it and came up with nothing so I guess I better ask!

    Kim, I will post some pictures later. I was going to photograph the whole canning process but was running short on time so I just skipped that. Besides, seeing my kitchen in its height of messiness might discourage other would-be canners! ;)

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Well, here we are again

Glasses!

Bio mom