Erik is currently in a canning exhaustion coma, curled up with both the dog and the cat, napping. He did an amazing amount of work today: he harvested peas, helped me shell them, harvested our carrots, saved some of our potatoes from the nasty gophers who have apparently eaten the rest of them (I am so mad about this I could spit), and managed to help me bottle up a bunch of our produce. I guess I should backtrack a bit and say we made a trip on Saturday to the Utah Fruit Way, a stretch of Highway 89 just outside Brigham City (the stands are actually located in Willard and Perry, Utah) lined with produce stands. We went a little crazy, purchasing two flats of peaches, a bunch of cherries, Spanish onions, tomatoes, roma tomatoes, corn, plums, a variety of squash, bell peppers, eggplants, cherry tomatoes, and hot peppers. Everything is grown there in that area of Utah and everything we purchased had either just been picked that day or the day before. All that super-freshness is begging to be bottled up and saved for the winter (after we’ve eaten our fill out of hand, of course). The peaches are juicy and sweet, the cherry tomatoes are super sweet and just a joy to snack on, the corn is plump and beautifully golden. I ventured deeper into canning territory with these items, canning items I’ve never canned before. I feel like now that I’ve mastered jams and pickled items, everything would be a cinch and honestly, it is. Follow the most basic of directions and you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous jars of fresh fruit and vegetables.
If you’re going to can, I highly suggest a large water bath canner (basically a really large pot with a lid and a rack inside for lifting jars), a jar lifter, a canning funnel (I cannot stress enough how much simpler canning is when you’ve got a decent funnel), a lid lifter (these are probably not a required item but they’re cheap and I like lifting my lids with them), lids and rings, and fresh jars.
Before you being canning, wash your jars with hot water and a little soap and rinse them well; alternatively run them through your dishwasher. Since mine doesn’t have a sanitize cycle, old cheap thing that it is, I have to boil mine in my canner pre-filling and processing. If you’re doing this, just fill your canning pot with water, bring to a nice even boil, then carefully put your jars inside. Cover them with a lid and just let them hang out in the hot water while you prep your fruits and/or vegetables. Also put your lids into a small pan, cover with water, and let those simmer on low heat and just let those hang out on the stove while you’re prepping everything else.
Start with a simple recipe, like this one.
Peaches in Honey Syrup
recipe from Consider the Pantry
5 lbs. peaches (I used a type called Delp Hale, which are a little tart, you use whatever you want)
4 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Bring a large pot of water to a low boil. In a large bowl or another large pot, fill with cold water and add some ice to it. Place this ice water receptacle nearby. Blanch your peaches a few at a time in the hot water for 30-60 seconds, then lift them out with a slotted spoon or a spider and immediately place them in the cold water. When they’ve cooled enough to handle, simply slip the skins off the peaches. Cut the peaches into slices off the pit and weigh out your 5 lbs. I ended up just doing maybe 5 peaches at a time in the boiling water, then cutting and weighing and just kept adding peaches until I arrived at 5 lbs. I find I can’t really measure too accurately prior to cutting them up because once your remove the pit, they’re lighter. Place your cut peaches into a large bowl. Toss with the lemon juice.
Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring the water, sugar and honey to a boil and let it boil for about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to bring it to a simmer, then dump your peaches in. Let these cook until they’ve softened up a little bit. While those are cooking (it won’t take too long to soften), prepare your jars: remove them from the canning pot, dry them up, set them on a towel and fit your funnel inside. Spoon your peaches into the hot jars, leaving room at the top (don’t fill these jars all the way); you need 1/2 inch of headspace for expansion. Return your honey mixture to the stove, bring it back to a boil and let it reduce a bit. Just a note: mine never got seriously syrupy – it was still quite watery. I used it anyway and they look just fine. Ladle the syrup into the jars to cover the peaches, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. I did not end up using all the syrup because the peaches generated their own liquid as well and I didn’t want to overfill the jars. Remove your heated lids from their pan and pat dry. Run a butterknife along the edges of the peaches in your jar to get rid of air bubbles. Place your lid on the jar, screw on the metal band (not too tightly please, just screw it in enough to shut the jar). Repeat this with all the jars you filled. Place the filled jars into the canning pot, lower them into the water and make sure they are covered by 1 inch of water. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil. Let it process in boiling water for about 15-20 minutes. I process all my jar longer than that but only because I live at 6000+ elevation. We’re seriously high altitude here. When you’re done processing, lift the rack up, then lift the jars out (with the jar lifter). Set them on a towel lined counter and listen for the pop. Your jars are sealed when they top of the lid is sucked in tight and doesn’t pop out when you touch it. Let the jars sit on your counter overnight to rest. They should be stored in a cool, dry place and I’m told they last up to a year. They won’t of course because I will EAT THEM.