Let’s Get Peachy! Canning Peaches Volume 1

by James R. Coffey

It is hard to believe, but fresh peaches are starting to show up in markets and probably will be early due to all of the warm weather we have had here this year.  My next several articles will be on preserving peaches in several different ways.  I hope to do one on tomatoes as well as we approach August and September.  Some of my favorite varieties are Red Haven, Sun High, Loring, and Elberta.  I would say my absolute favorite is Red Haven.  I call them “If-y Stone Peaches!”.  The reason is sometimes they are freestone and sometimes they want to cling to the stone and they have to be cut off, but no other compares for flavor and the ability not to darken. 

There are several methods of preserving peaches.  I prefer canning them.  Freezing is easy as well.  Just peel, pit, slice and sprinkle a little sugar on them and add a little Fruit Fresh according to package directions and freeze.  Red Haven will really keep their color.  You can also grind them, add the Fruit Fresh and freeze in recipe amounts for jams, cakes and other uses.

Canning is my absolute favorite way to preserve fresh peaches.  Peaches are also high in acid and need a very short processing time as compared to low acid food.  It should be one of the first can items for a novice.  Peaches can be canned and sweetened several different ways.  I will give all that I know as well as how to use agave nectar as well.

How to Can Peaches

Peel, cut in half, and remove pits.  Save peeling and pits later for making jelly.  This is why I do not like to scald the peaches and I feel it makes them slimy and harder to peel.  Pack peaches, raw, cavity side down into clean jars, leaving 1 inch headspace.  Follow directions below as to how to sweeten and finish:

Direct Sugar Method: Add ¼ to ½ C. granulated sugar to each quart.  Some adds up to 2/3 C., but I feel the lesser amount is better.  Fill jar to the neck with cold water.  (This is about 1 inch headspace and is for all methods).  For pint jars, use half of these amounts of sugar.

Syrup Method:

Extra Light Syrup: ½ C. Sugar to 5 C. water (I use this for a lot of my fruits)

Light Syrup: 1 C. sugar to 3 cups water

Medium Syrup: 1 C. sugar to 2 C. water

Heavy Syrup: 1 C. sugar to 1 C. water

Very Heavy Syrup: 2 C. sugar to 1 C. water (This was used by my Grandmother’s sister, Curly for her peaches, but is too sweet for most people)

Combine sugar and water.  Dissolve over heat and allow to come to a boil.  Either uses boiling hot or I prefer to make my syrup and use it lukewarm  Fill jars with syrup as given for Direct Sugar method.

To Sweeten with Honey: Add 1 to 4 T. honey to each quart.  Use a mild flavored honey.  Fill jar with water as directed above.

To Use an Artificial Sweetener: Add 5 small packets of Spenda or Equal to a quart jar and fill the jar with water as directed above.  You can also make a so called syrup for that way as well of 1 C. Splenda to 4 C. water.

To Sweeten With Agave Nectar: Use 1 1/3 C. Light Agave Nectar to 9 C. water. Heat and fill jars as directed.  My source for this recommends a water bath of 40 minutes for agave syrup canned peaches.  I do not see why and would reduce the time and try them as for a regular peach timetable.

I fill both peaches and liquid, leaving 1 inch headspace.  Wipe jar rims.  Seal and process (cold pack) 8 to 15 minutes.  Do softer peaches the lesser time.  When using pint jars, 5 to 10 minutes is long  enough.  I sometimes add 1 t. Fruit Fresh to every quart for better color, but this is optional.  If you are doing a lot, you may peel your peaches and put them in an anti darkening solution of 2 T. each of salt and vinegar to a gallon of water.  Do not leave in this over 20 minutes and rinse well prior to packing or use Fruit Fresh according to directions for a pretreatment solution if you desire. The USDA and all authorities process pints 25 minutes, quarts 30 minutes in a boiling water bath and my grandmother’s sister’s did theirs this long, but we never did.  They are much too soft.  A pressure canner would do the exact same thing to them.


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