We purchased two cases of Michigan peaches so far this year – one from a local supermarket, and one from a roadside market up in Door County. I decided to can most of them, as the boys adore canned peaches. I also dried some in the dehydrator and make some peach jam. For canning peaches, use those that are ripe but still firm. I use the softer peaches for jam or drying.
How to Peel Peaches
Before canning or drying peaches, I remove the skins. The skins get really chewy after drying, and strangely slimy after canning, so I highly recommend this step.
First, prep a large pot of boiling water, a slotted spoon or other large scoop to remove the peaches from the boiling water, a basin to place them in to move them to the chilling water, and the peaches you want to process.
Next, prep your chilling and skinning area. I like to chill mine in my wash basin in the sink, gather the skins in an old yogurt container, and place the peeled peaches into a basin of water with a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice or a teaspoon of citric acid in the water to prevent browning.
Once the boys got going, I placed another basin of cold water in the second sink, and added additional “post peeling” bowls as well.
You may also want to prep your canning equipment at this time, including:
- your water bath canner
- clean and sterilized quart jars (I run mine through the dishwasher and time it so they are hot when I’m ready to can)
- lids and rings in hot (not boiling) water
- jar lifter
- tongs or lid lifter to grab rings
- clean cloth to wipe jar rims
- wooden spoon for stirring
- chopstick to remove air bubbles
- Light syrup (recipe below)
Once your water is boiling, place 8-10 peaches in the boiling water for around 60 seconds, depending on the size of your pot. You want to work quickly, so no peach is in too long, otherwise they will cook and get soft.
Remove from heat and plunge into cold water (ice is helpful, cold is required). This stops the peach from cooking so it doesn’t get too soft, and also makes it cool enough to handle to peel.
Put child labor to work peeling peaches – lots of peaches.
The skins should slip off easily at this point. Again, working as quickly as possible is a good thing, as the longer they sit in water, the more water they will absorb. I usually let the boys finish peeling while I prep everything else for canning. I remove the pits and either half or quarter the peaches, depending on the jar size (I use wide mouth quart jars for peach halves) and make sure the cut edges are exposed to the lemon water to prevent browning.
How to Can Peaches
I like to work from left to right on my stove. Fill on the left side, process on the right, unload finished jars on a waiting cloth next to the right side of the stove. I prefer to cold pack peaches, which means the fruit is loaded in the jars at room temperature and then boiling syrup is poured over the top. I think the peaches stay firmer and more attractive using this method, even though they float more in the jar.
In this photo I have the rings and lids at the top, sugar syrup on the lower left, water bath canner on the right.
To prepare syrup, while heating water, add sugar slowly, stirring constantly to dissolve. Bring to a gentle boil. Fill jars while syrup is still boiling hot. For light syrup, use 2 1/4 cup sugar per 5 1/4 cups water, which will yield 6 1/2 cups of syrup. You may use less sugar, fruit juice or honey, but these will all give your product a shorter shelf life and quicker discoloration. Sugar acts as a preservative by binding up free water in the fruit (see The Natural Canning Resource Book). Note: The juice from the peaches also makes a great flavoring for homemade water kefir.
Drain peaches in a colander. Fill jars to 1/2 inch headspace (leave fruit and syrup 1/2 inch from top of jar). Ladle on hot syrup. Run you chopstick or small non-metallic spatula between the peaches and the jar to remove air bubbles (metal may scratch the inside of the jar). Add extra syrup if needed. Wipe rim clean, screw on lid (not too tight – air must escape during processing).
* Note: if using Tattler lids, use 1 inch headspace, tighten rings, then unscrew 1/4 inch.
Place jars on rack in canner. When canner is full, lower jars into water. Make sure jars are covered by 1-2 inches of water. Bring to boil, process (boil gently) pints 20 minutes, quarts 25 minutes.
When the cooking time is up, remove jars at once and place on a rack or on towels away from heat and away from any draft. If using Tattler lids, tighten rings as soon as they are removed from the water bath. This is not necessary for standard canning lids.
After 12-24 hours, check lids for seal. Standard lids should be concave in the center and held down tightly. Tattler lids should be snug if you try to pull them off. I love listening to the “ping” as the jars seal.
Here’s round one of peaches the next day, wiped off ready to be labeled with date on contents on the lid with a Sharpie marker.
How to Dry Peaches in a Dehydrator
Drying peaches is super easy. I often dry whatever I can’t easily fit in the canner, or peaches that are too soft to can or marked up a bit. Thinly slice your peeled peaches, dip them in the lemon water to prevent browning, then drain the slices in a strainer. Place slices on dehydrator tray or Clean a Screen insert on dehydrator tray, or equivalent mesh insert on other dehydrators. Dry at around 135-140 degrees F until leathery or crisp, depending on thickness of slices. I usually dry mine overnight.
I highly recommend using the mesh inserts, as the peaches are very sticky and like to stick to the trays. With the inserts, you just bend them and the dried fruit pops right off.
Store in an airtight container out of direct sunlight. If I have a lot of a particular dried fruit, I vacuum seal it in mason jars with the vacuum sealer attachment. These make great snacks and can also be added to homemade granola or fruit and nut mixes. If you’ve got a LOT of dried fruit, Mary Bell’s Dehydrator cookbook has some good recipes for pies and other baked goods using dried fruit.
So there you go! Peachy goodness to enjoy all year long. If you’ve enjoyed this post, please consider passing it along.