Recipes · Tips and Tricks

STEP BY STEP: Canning peach preserves

All summer I’ve been waiting for a free afternoon to do some canning.

I’m a newbie, so my husband bought me a Ball starter kit at Tags Hardware in Porter Square earlier this year, and my mom offered to show me the ropes this past weekend. We decided to start by putting up some farmstand peaches to share with our friends and family this winter, since they’re so abundant now!

Before you get started, here’s a list of essential equipment:

  • A large stockpot, deep enough to submerge the cans
  • A set of jars designed for canning, such as those made by Ball or Kerr.
  • A funnel to ladel the preserves into jars
  • Tongs or can lifters to remove hot jars from boiling water
  • A canning rack to submerge the cans upright
  • A magnetic lifting utensil to remove lids from boiling water
  • A headspace tool for eliminating air bubbles
  • Dissolvable can labels
  • Pectin (a jelling agent for fruit)
Ball’s Canning Discovery kit is a great starter pack for novice canners.

More experienced preservers may also own a pressure canner for low-acid foods that require temperatures beyond the boiling point, such as vegetables & meats.

I bought four pounds of peaches for $9 at the Farmer’s Market on Natick Common Saturday morning. To get them ready for preserving, my brother and I first boiled them for about 10 minutes and then dunked them in an ice bath to make it easier to remove the skins and pits.

Meanwhile, wash the cans in hot soapy water and sanitize the lids and rings in simmering water. It’s important not to let the lids and rims boil.

Before I go any further, here’s the recipe we used.

Peach Preserves (from the Ball Blue Book)

Yield: about 9 half pints

  • 4 cups sliced, pitted and peeled peaches (about 4 pounds)
  • 6 TBSP Ball Classic Pectin
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • 7 cups sugar

Combine peaches, classic pectin and lemon juice in a large saucepot. Bring to a boil, stirring gently. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Meanwhile, simmer the jars so they are hot and set aside.

Ladel hot preserves into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace (there’s a handy guide in the Ball Blue Book, but if you are looking at the jar at eye level, 1/4 inch of space at the top falls just about near the upper-most rung on the mouth).

Make sure to wipe the rims of the jars so they are totally clean before processing.

Remove the lids and rims from the simmering water with your magnetic jar-lid-lifter. Adjust two-piece caps on the jars. You don’t want to put them on too tight; just a spin until they’re snug will do.

Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

You may need to process in two batches if you are putting up more cans than the pot can handle at one time. Remember it’s very important to pick a pot that’s large enough so the jars are covered by at least one inch of water. And, contrary to what you see pictured above, you should always use a lid! Once the 10 minutes are up, carefully use your tongs to remove the cans from the water and set on a rack to cool. Do NOT pour cold water over them or do anything else to speed up the cooling process.

I find it’s best to let your preserves sit for at least 12 hours — a full day is even better. Within a few minutes of taking them off the boil, you should hear (and see) the lids “pop” when they seal up. Once they’re at room temp, you can store them in a cupboard for up to one year. Before you store them, though, don’t forget to label and date them. Now, you have delicious preserves to help you enjoy the fresh taste of summer throughout the crisp fall and into the long, cold winter!

Troubleshooting

Most people have to learn the hard way that you can’t get the same results by doubling or halving a canning recipe. Follow them only as directed.

It’s also important to use only fresh-picked produce for canning.

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