Monday, September 9, 2013

Spiced Peaches

Several years ago I discovered the joys of canning...

The work is hot and sweaty and sticky, and it seems to last all day, but their is something so satisfying at the end of a long day to see all the beautiful bottles lined up on the counter and hear them popping as I put my feet up on the sofa.  At the end of the day, I had something tangible (and really yummy) to show for what I did all day.

This year, for the first time, I don't have fruit trees to can from.  But I still have bottled fruits I'm enjoying from last year.  As people have helped me pack and unpack, and then do it over again, I keep having the same question asked:  "What is that in the peaches, are you sure they are still okay?"

The answer is simple, I can my peaches (and pears,apples, and nectarines) with half a cinnamon stick and 4 cloves in each bottle.  This is a trick I learned from my mother.  As a teenager and young adult, I hated peaches.  Particularly the kind that come in all that thick syrup from the store.  A few years ago, my mom asked if I wanted to bottle her peaches and I explained that I hated peaches.  She was surprised and told me that spiced peaches had been one of my favorite foods as a little girl, so I decided to give it a shot and I fell in love again.

Follow this recipe for canning peaches in light syrup or really any recipe that you know you like, they are all about the same, I prefer the light syrup though.  You will change the recipe in 2 ways.  Before you fill the jars, place 1/2 cinnamon stick (2-3 inches long) and 4-5 whole cloves in each jar.  When making the syrup, skip the fruit fresh and use 1/4 cup of tang in 2 quarts of syrup.  Don't use the tang in pears or apples, but in peaches and nectarines it enhances the color and flavor.

These peaches make the best peach cobbler, I also love to stir them into vanilla ice cream. They are great alone as well.

A few tips to make canning more fun and faster:
  • Use the buddy system, more hands make light work and a friend gives you someone to chat with.
  • If you can get one, use a 2 or 3 burner camp stove and set it up outside (works great if you have a patio or deck off your kitchen)  run 2 or 3 caners at once, and processing outside keeps it from heating up your kitchen.
  • Don't ever can just a few cans, the cleanup is half the work, bottle as much fruit as you can get your hands on.
  • Get your kids involved!  They can wash and peal fruit and help fill bottles.  It's a great skill for them to learn and they enjoy eating it better when they helped make it.
  • Bottle all the fruit you have ready on the same day.   You can cook jam while prepping other fruits, or process one batch while preparing the next.
  • I know this is hard for some of you, but take a deep breath and accept the sticky.  If you stop to wipe up every little sticky spill, you will spend more time cleaning up than caning, just live with it until you are done and then clean it all at once. (or better yet, get your kids to clean it up while you eat some well deserved chocolate!)
My friend and I have canned together for several years and we have a system that works great for us.  We have 2 large pasta pots (with the strainers in them) that we use for blanching.  They fit much more than the blanching pots.  One of us mans  the blanchers while the other slips and slices the peaches (or whatever we are working on).  The sliced fruit goes into large bowls of cold water with fruit fresh in them.  When all the fruit is prepped, we fill the jars.  Using three water bath canners on the back deck on the camp stove we process 21 quarts at a time.  We have gone through more than 60 bottles in a given day in which we are still doing carpools and preschool runs etc.

Once all the bottles are cooled, we write the contents and year on the lid and then divide up the spoils.

Happy Canning!