I’ve canned a lot of things this year that I had never tried before, cherry preserves and salsa, for starters. But sometimes it’s good to go back to the basics and can a simple batch of no-frills, just-plain, regular fruit. For me, that means peaches. I love canning peaches. I was very pleased and fortunate to have received in the mail a box of peaches and nectarines, in hopes that I would wax erudite about the satisfaction one can get from canning them, and I’m always on the look out for things to do with peaches.
Peaches were the very first fruit I ever canned. My grandmother was the one who taught me, back in 2005 when I had newly graduated from college. I had never bottled anything before. When I was young my family never lived in a place where you could cheaply acquire enough fruit to make the effort of preserving it worthwhile.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, canning is not just about laying up fresh produce for the future. It is a meditation on the science and history that led to the development of home-canning; my hopes and dreams for how I plan to use my bottles of preserved fruit; and the love of my grandmother, who not only took the time to teach me how to do it, but also supplied me with much of the necessary equipment.
But enough philosophizing! Here’s how to can peaches and nectarines.
Canning peaches is about as simple as you can get. It’s simply peeled and pitted peaches in sugar syrup. That’s it. You put all that in a bottle, put a lid on it, and then place the bottles in a hot water canner for a while. If even that sounds like it could be a little daunting, don’t despair. Break it down into the very, very basics.
Canning one variety of fruit is very much like another. Click here to read about canning bing cherries. If you know how to can cherries or just about any other fruit, peaches are just as simple.
1) Wash and sterilize your canning jars and set them aside until the peaches and syrup are ready.
2) The first step to doing anything with peaches is to remove the skin.
This is done by blanching them and then transferring them into cold water immediately afterward. More detailed instructions can be found here.
3) Slice your peaches.
To prevent browning, I put them in a large bowl of water with a small amount of lemon juice. You can also use commercial “color keeper,” or even vinegar (you will have to rinse off the vinegar later, to keep your fruit from tasting like salad dressing). The acidity keeps the peaches from browning while you are waiting to put them in your jars.
4) Prepare your sugar syrup.
There are two ways to make sugar syrup. One is to mix a quantity of sugar and water in a saucepan and stir until it is all dissolved. You’ll ladle this into your jars after you’ve put in your peaches. You can choose how heavy or light you want your syrup by altering the amount of sugar.
Or you could do it the lazy way like I do: put between 1/4 and 1/3 cup sugar in the bottom of each jar, fill the jars with peaches, and then put just enough water to cover your peaches. Voila, instant syrup.
5) Be very sure that you wipe the rims of your jars thoroughly before placing the lids.
Stray fruit or syrup or sugar on the rims can prevent the jars from sealing, which would make all your hard work for nothing. Then place the lids and screw the rings on until they are fairly tight.
6) Process the jars.
The term “process” just means heating the jars to kill any bacteria. This is also what will cause the jars to seal, making them shelf stable. Boiling water canners are the most common, but steam canners are also available. How long you process your jars may depend on your altitude. I live in the inter-mountain west, so I leave my jars in the canner for at least 30 minutes when I am bottling peaches in quart-sized jars.
When your 30 minutes are up, remove your jars (I like to use a handy jar lifter like this one) and leave them to cool on your counter for 24 hours.
I just finished canning a bunch of peaches before I started writing this article, and just now I heard the satisfying, “thock!” of one of my peach jars sealing. That’s how you know it’s been done right.
Nectarines are just as easy
I also had a number of nectarines to can this summer. I wasn’t sure what to do with them until I realized that anything you can do with peaches can also be done with nectarines. There is very little difference between the two: the taste is very nearly the same, and they are the same size and shape. If anything nectarines are easier to can because, lacking characteristic fuzz, you do not have to peel them first.
Since I was freed from the burden of peeling my nectarines, I put my energy into devising much more creative ways to can them. I made a batch of nectarine salsa, and a batch of spiced nectarines. For both, I used recipes that had originally been written for peaches.
Peach (Nectarine) Salsa with Lime
The spiced nectarines are prepared almost exactly like regular fruit in syrup; the only real difference is that the syrup has had some flavorings added. The following is adapted from The Better Homes and Gardens Home Canning Cook Book, copyright 1973:
2 cups water
5 cups sugar
1 cup vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar for a fruitier taste)
2 Tablespoon whole cloves
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. This makes a very heavy syrup. You have the option of decreasing the amount of sugar if desired. This amount is sufficient for 7 pint jars of spiced nectarines.
Stone fruit is extremely versatile. Whether you choose to can your peaches and nectarines “just plain,” or spiced up as something more exciting, your jars of fruit will make a tasty and attractive addition to your pantry.
Add to your canning knowledge and supplies with these recommended products!
- All-American Pressure Canner (Ultra heavy duty, more expensive)
- DVD: At Home Canning for Beginners and Beyond
- Back to Basics Jar Lifter
- Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving
- Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
- Ball Canning Utensil Set
- Presto Pressure Canner (budget-friendly)
- Simply Canning by Sharon Peterson