Friday, 22 August 2014

Peaches - Round 2

When we got back from Penticton 1 month ago, I brought back 40 pounds of peaches and canned them.  Well, it's been a month and the kids and Joel have gone through half the jars already!    So, I kept an eye out for a sale and snagged one earlier this week.  I picked up another 40 pounds.  They were a bit on the smaller side (read: more work in peeling) and little hard (needed a couple of days to sit and ripen), however, they were the "freestone" variety.

Peaches come in "freestone" and "clingstone." As the names imply, the peach flesh will come away from the pit easily with the freestone and cling to the clingstone.  So, when canning in large quantities, freestone is preferable.  Clingstone are tastier as a fresh eating peach, though (at least, in my opinion).

First things first was taking off all those stupid little stickers.  This was a good job for Isabella, my main kitchen helper.  After the stickers were gone, the peaches went into a pot of boiling water (about 20 peaches at a time -- remember, these are small peaches) for about 2 minutes, and then plunged into an ice water bath. Doing this loosens the skins and makes them easier to peel.  I forgot to take pictures of this, though.

I also prepared a solution to stop the browning of the peach slices.  I use Vitamin C and water.  For 2 litres of water, I crush 3 tablets of Vitamin C.

For 40 pounds of peaches, I ended up with 3 big bowls of peaches.  I made a fresh solution for each bowl of peaches.

Using a paring knife (and my good one this time, not the cheapass steak knife ), I would peel a peach, slice it, and drop it into the anti-browning solution.  You can see how easy it is to pop the slices away from the freestone pit.

Once I went through about half a bowl of peaches, I would put the sliced peaches into a hot syrup solution.  I use a ratio of 2:1 water-to-sugar, and I like to hot pack my peaches.  I find the peaches have a better texture in a medium syrup and also being hot packed.  Hot packing peaches tightens up the peach flesh by exhausting the air voids, resulting in a firmer fruit.  Plus, you can pack more fruit into a jar.  You will also get less floating at the end.

I put the peaches into the boiling syrup and then bring it back up to boil. Once they are boiling, I take the pot off the heat and pack the fruit into jars.  I repeat this process until I have enough to fill my canner.

For 1-litre jars, you have to process them in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes (I do 30 minutes because I am at elevation).  For 40 pounds of peaches, I ended up with 13 1-litres jars and 1 500-ml jar.

Now, you might think I am done with this bunch of peaches.  But, nope, not me.  After all the peeling, slicing, cooking, etc, I am left with a big bowl of peach pits and skins, 6 litres of peach juice-infused anti-browning solution, and about 6 cups of peachy sugar syrup.

There are a couple of things you could do at this point.  With the syrup, you could strain it, then boil it down either to the syrup point or the jelly point.  With the peach water, you could strain it, then add some sugar (or Splenda) and drink it (remember, all I added was crushed Vitamin C).  The peach water has quite a bit of natural peach juice in it now.

Ah, I hear you asking yourself, "What about the skins and pits? They look all slimy and gross."  Yep.  They are.  However, they still have a lot of peach bits on them.  I will mix all three together, simmer the resulting peach stew for about an hour, strain it, add more sugar, and then boil it down into a delicious syrup for pancakes.

You know that horde that has gone through half of the original batch of canned peaches in less than a month?  Well, they also eat a lot of pancakes. 

Syrup making is another post, though.  For now, the leftover peach stuff is sitting in my fridge.  I'll probably boil it tonight, but make the syrup on Sunday.