The end of Summer is my favorite time of year. It is the best for so many reasons. The days are still hot but not unbearable, the monsoon rains are bringing much needed rain to our very dry land, and the harvest is in full swing!
It is at the end of summer when my two favorite crops are ready to harvest: tomatoes and peaches. Today I want to discuss how to bottle peaches to be able to enjoy year round.
Bottling fruits and veggies is a lost art, but one that is alive and well in our household. I learned to bottle while helping my mom as a young girl. We would always grow a really large garden (we planted 90 tomato plants one year!) and we had a small orchard. This meant that we had a lot of produce to either consume in a short time, or preserve to enjoy later.
Fresh peaches are by far my favorite, but they only last for such a short time. Bottled peaches are a good second and they beat the hell out of canned peaches any day.
To begin with, I peel and pit my ripe peaches either leaving them in halves or cutting them into slices. I keep them fresh in a large pot of water to keep them from turning brown. I often do very large batches of peaches and this is a good way to keep them fresh while they wait for their turn in the canner.
Next I wash and sterilize my bottles, rings and lids in hot soapy water. I rinse with hot water and leave my bottles and lids in the hot water until I am ready to pack the jars.
Next I start to make my syrup and set my canner to boil. Large waterbath canners can take a long time to heat up, so I try to start heating mine just prior to packing the jars with peaches. I fill it about 2/3 of the way full with water and then set it on the stove on medium high heat to begin warming.
This is also when I start my syrup to pour over the peaches. You can use a lighter or heavier syrup depending on your liking. My family really enjoys our peaches extra sweet so I opt for a heavy syrup. I use a 2:1 ratio of sugar and water and in a large stockpot, I bring it to a boil.
Now we are ready to pack the jars. I use a raw pack method which means I fill the jars with raw, uncooked peaches leaving 1/2 an inch of head space (empty space) at the top. I used to just cut my peaches in half and bottle them like that, but with a pack of little kids I have decided that cutting them into slices saves me from having to cut up peaches for them at mealtimes.
After the bottles are packed and the syrup is brought to a boil, I use a funnel and a ladle to ladle and fill the bottles with the syrup. When the syrup reaches the neck of the jar, about a half inch below the rim, they are full.
Next, remove the funnel, wipe down the rim of the jar with a damp cloth to remove any spilled syrup that may be on the rim. Place the lid on top and tighten down the ring. Do this for each bottle and when you have 7 jars ready place them in the canner.
I like to add my jars to the canner when the water is hot but not yet boiling. This helps to keep the jars from cracking when being exposed to a drastic change in temperature. If the jars are too cold or the water too hot it can cause the glass to crack and then the food is lost.
Add the jars to the canner and see that the water level is at least an inch above the top of the jars. Adjust the water level if necessary. Bring the canner to a full boil and put the lid on. Process jars for 30 minutes for quarts and 25 minutes for pints. Do not shorten the processing time as it is critical to process long enough that bacteria and other microbes are killed during the heating process.
After the processing time is complete, I turn off the heat, remove the jars from the canner and allow them to cool for 24 hours before I move them into storage. As they cool the rubber ring on the lid will be sucked down and will create a vacuum seal on the top of the jar. The rings can then be removed after the jars have fully cooled.
Now you can enjoy peaches until the next harvest! Happy Canning!