You can enjoy the sweetness and juiciness of summer peaches year round when you preserve your bounty with canning. So, go ahead - go wild at the orchard or farmer’s market - you can enjoy peach perfection all year!
Select ripe, mature peaches for canning. If they are underripe, they will have poor texture and flavor. If too ripe, they’ll turn to mush. A perfect peach will allow a small indentation when the flesh is pressed with your finger and will be free of bruises and blemishes. Plan on 4 to 5 medium peaches (about 2 1/2 pounds) for each quart jar. You will be able to can about 18 pounds of peaches at a time in a 7-quart canner.
When canning fruits, you can safely use a boiling water canner. Molds, yeasts, and bacteria which can grow in these high-acid foods are destroyed at boiling water-bath temperatures. The standard size canner holds 7 quart or 9 pint Mason jars.
Inspect your Mason jars for cracks, chips and nicks. Hairline cracks can cause the jar to break during the canning process, and that’s a big mess and a waste of prime fruit. Run your finger over the rim - if it is not perfectly smooth, the lid will not seal properly, and that increases the risk of botulism. Don’t want that!
Use only clean jars. Before every use, wash the jars in hot, soapy water or in the dishwasher. Thorough rinsing is important to prevent unnatural flavors and colors from any detergent residue. To be sure your jars are squeaky clean, soak them several hours in a solution of 1 cup vinegar to a gallon of water.
Inspect lids and rings and discard any with dents, bumps or any other damage which could prevent them from sealing safely. Place the lids and rings in a pot of water with at least one inch of water covering the tops. Boil 10 minutes to activate the seal and sanitize the lids if your elevation is 1,000 feet or less. Fun fact: water boils at lower temperatures as elevation increases, so more time is needed to sanitize properly. Add one minute for each additional thousand feet of elevation. (For example, at 3,000 feet, boil for an additional 2 minutes, for a total of 12 minutes.)
Gently wash and drain the fruit. Dip the peaches in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds, then transfer to a cold water bath to stop the cooking process. The skins should pull off with gentle handling. Any remaining skin will peel easily with a paring knife.
Cut peaches in half and remove the pits. You can leave the fruit in halves, or you can quarter or thickly slice them - your preference. To prevent browning while peeling and cutting, keep peeled peaches in an ascorbic acid bath. Mix 1 teaspoon powdered ascorbic acid (look for it in the canning section) or finely crush six 500 mg Vitamin C tablets in one gallon of water. You can also use a commercial anti-darkening product such as Fruit Fresh, following the manufacturer’s directions.
There are variations from recipe to recipe for the syrup that covers the fruit. Most common is sugar syrup, but apple juice, white grape juice or water can be used. Peaches can be canned safely without sugar, but it helps to maintain the fruit’s flavor, texture and color. If you are trying to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet, experiment with a light sugar syrup or packing with juice or water to find a level of sweetness that suits you and your family.
Artificial sweeteners will not have the beneficial effects of sugar on the color and firmness of the fruit. Aspartame and Saccharin are not stable when heated and should be added when serving. Splenda is stable when heated and retains quality and shelf life for at least one year when the canned peaches are properly stored.
Peaches may be packed into the jars hot or raw. Hot packing adds a step, but results in a better product. Raw packed peaches float to the top of the jar, can lose juice and flavor and food fibers can migrate through siphoning and compromise the seal, so inspect carefully. Heating the peaches before packing into jars draws air out of the flesh so the peaches are less likely to float, more peaches fit in each jar and the juice is less likely to boil out, keeping seals safely intact.
To hot pack peaches, place enough peaches for one or two jars into the boiling syrup, water, or juice and return to a boil. Heating the peaches minimizes fruit shrinkage during the jars’ boiling water bath that follows. Remove the peaches carefully and place in jars to within 1 inch of the top. Add hot syrup or other liquid to within ½ inch of top. Remove air bubbles, wipe the jar rim with a wet paper towel, and adjust the lids.
To raw pack, fill jars with raw fruit, cut side down, and add hot water, juice or syrup. A crock pot will maintain the liquid at a consistent temperature. Leave ½ inch headspace for both fruit and liquid. Raw packed peaches require an additional 5 minutes for processing.
Fill the canner about halfway with hot, but not boiling, water. Carefully place the filled jars in the hot water and add additional water to bring the level to 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Cover and bring the water to a boil. The processing time will vary depending on your packing method and altitude. A Master Preserver in your local extension office can advise you as to what is best for your location, but in general,
Hot-Pack Process Time for Quart Jars:
0-1,000 ft. - 25 minutes
1,001-3000 ft. - 30 minutes
3,001-6,000 ft. - 35 minutes
Above 6,000 ft. 40 minutes
Raw-Pack Process Time for Quart Jars:
0-1,000 ft. - 30 minutes
1,001-3,000 ft. - 35 minutes
3,001-6,000 ft. - 40 minutes
Above 6,000 ft. - 45 minutes
When processing in the boiling water bath is complete, remove the canner from the heat and remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes before removing jars to equalize the temperature within the jar and reduce liquid loss from the jar. Using a jar lifter, remove jars from the canner and place on a towel or rack. Allow to cool at least 12 hours, then check lid seals. The jars may be sticky, so wash, dry and label them before storing in a cool, dark, dry place.
Here are a few recipes for canned peaches that will keep this delicious taste of summer within reach all year long.
Here's a canned peach recipe suitable for small households. It makes 4 pints of sweet peaches so you can try your hand at canning with small steps to start. The sugar syrup is classic, so you can try the small batch and adjust the sweetness more to your liking the next time.