Just Peachy.

“For many, canning breeds nostalgia: memories of watching from grandma’s counter

or helping momma pull the skin off blanched tomatoes …”

– Nicole Baute

I’m not sure why … but canning everything or as much as possible was on my to-do list before Baby #4 makes his or her sweet arrival this October.

I’ve been feeling the need to tread softly, eat locally, shop locally, waste not, want not … and gosh, well, canning sounded like a ton of fun, so why not? I love a good challenge!

I fondly remember my mom, working away in our family kitchen, steam escaping from the huge pot of boiling water on the stove, baskets and baskets of fresh green beans and tomatoes, lined up, ready to be preserved for another winter in the Clair family. I remember sitting in front of a Laurel & Hardy black and white movie, snapping the ends off of the green beans while giggling at the silly antics of the two goofy actors on the t.v. screen. I remember loving my mom’s homemade salsa and thinking her dill pickles were better than any I’ve ever tasted. I remember picking fresh, wild apples from the farmer’s fields that surrounded our home in the country, bringing them home and watching my mom create delicious tart apple sauce right before my eyes.

Canning. A mysterious chapter in the “Mom world” I hadn’t attempted to venture into – until now.

Earlier this summer, my BFF and I made strawberry jam … we had a blast – a sticky, awesome mess was made and our families promptly devoured the jam as quickly as we made it. (Note to self: make a bigger batch of jam next time!)

And that gave me the canning bug …

So today, on a whim of energy and a spur of the moment decision, I decided to try canning peaches. I googled a recipe for general instructions, packed girls in my truck and took off in search of my Canning Supplies. Standing in the canning aisle at the local store, I spotted what looked like a learned-canner-of-many-delicious-foods … I rattled off a list of questions for her and she kindly answered them and assured me “Oh, canning peaches is easy!!! You’ll be fine …”

I wasn’t so sure. I’m the type of girl who can mess up the easiest muffin recipe in the world.  Honestly.
Still, I loaded up the cart with jars and lids, a huge pot and “jar-grabbers” and snaked my way through the aisles back to the till – when lo and behold, an Angel of Canning Mercies appeared … my awesome, sweet amazing Gramma bumped into my cart and all my troubles dissolved like sugar boiling away in a pot of scalding hot water (a bit of canning humor, perhaps? Ok, so I tried…) Ahhh, I LOVE having my gramma live here in town with me! (A dream come true!)

Yes, my wonderful Gramma gently led me back home and helped with each step of the way … her beautiful years of experience were like a beacon of hope for my little-canning-experience. Together, while the girls coloured and cut out pictures at the kitchen table, we boiled, peeled, pitted, cut, made syrup and canned our first batch of glorious homemade peaches together … it was like Heaven …

All three jars of it.

Okay, so tip #1 – make sure you peaches are RIPE before beginning your canning process. Mine, obviously, were not all ready for the boiling pot.

But they will be … on Thursday … so watch out Canning World, here I come!

{That is, if i remember. I seem to have a serious case of baby brain recently. Hubby just found my iphone in the freezer tonight. That’s pretty pathetic.}

So some of you asked for the recipe – and as far as I know, there’s nothing secretive or fancy in this recipe – very simple (and three cheers for that!)…

1) Pick your peaches. Apparently, Freestone is the way to go. The pits are easier to remove … and it takes about five good peaches per one quart jar … just so you know. 🙂

2) Make your sugar syrup. I used the light recipe – but I guess it depends on how sweet you want it. Start warming the water and add the sugar, stirring slowly until it dissolves. Bring to a gentle boil and keep simmering. Once it’s ready, keep it hot but not boiling. I used two cups of sugar per six cups of water. This makes about 7 cups of syrup.

3)  Boil your jars for 10 minutes. Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize!

4) Wash your peaches.

5) Peel your peaches. The best way, so I’ve heard, is to scald them quickly for about 20 seconds – remove them from the boiling water and put them quickly into ice cold water. The skins should just slide off! To tell you the truth, my Gramma did this step so I’m not sure how hard it was, but hopefully it wasn’t too hard! (Gramma, why do I always put you on the hardest task in the kitchen?!)

6) Cut up the peaches. Take out the pits.

7) Making sure the jars are hot and the syrup is hot, pour the peaches and then syrup into the *hot* jars one at a time. It’s very important that the jars are hot and the syrup covers all of the peaches. Do you see a pattern here? Hot, hot, hot. Leave a little room at the top for the jar to seal.

8) Make sure the jar rims and edges are CLEAN and not sticky with peach juice so wipe them with a cloth and clean them up. Also very important or else it won’t seal. Pop on the seal (the middle lid part – what is that name?) twist the lid and secure … and you’re done!

Mmmmmmm!! I can’t wait to feed peaches to the girls in the dead of winter or bake a delicious peach crisp for Thanksgiving! And as soon as baby is old enough for yummy homemade baby food, think of the deliciousness awaiting him or her! 🙂

Wow, those two jars look lonely. Don’t worry. On Thursday, the peach family will grow. I already told hubby to get some shelves up in our very-creepy-over-100-year-old basement for all my canning. He just smirked. We’ll show him.

Next up (after the peaches) – tomatoes!! Does anyone have any awesome recipe for tomato sauce they want to share?! 🙂

August 27, 2010 - 8:48 pm

Krista ter Stege Beautiful pictures Gillian…it’s very nice to see you after all these years! I can’t wait for your tomato recipes, we have an abundance of them growing in our garden!

August 27, 2010 - 5:04 pm

Jen What a beautiful photo of you and your Gramma!

August 25, 2010 - 9:32 pm

Melissa I love the tomato sauce recipe out of the Soprano’s cookbook

August 24, 2010 - 9:52 pm

Bethany It is so wonderful that you have your Gramma close by ~ I miss both of mine so dearly and I love reading about your adventures together. Grammas are the best! It’s like they have been waiting their whole life just to give to you, in this moment, no matter what that moment may be, big or small. Enjoy the peachy goodness!

August 24, 2010 - 1:54 pm

Brenda (Gillian’s Mom) I’m so glad you remember all of that! I LOVED canning and pickling! It was so fulfilling, as a mom and nourisher of your family. Sorry I never taught you but I did make you do the labour work! (obviously LOL) A tip … I never skinned my peaches … just canned them with the skins on. When you open the jars, the skins just roll off the peaches, literally!! So much easier and less mess! Freestone is the ONLY way to go!! Good job, Gillian & Gramma! xo

August 24, 2010 - 1:08 pm

Claire Wow Gillian, your Gran’s awsome! I’m a bit envious! What a nice way to spend time together. I used to can pre-kids now I’m afraid to start as I worry I’ll never finish. I just bought some perfect Niagara Freestone peaches at Rock Garden Farm. You’ve inspired me to haul out the jars!

August 24, 2010 - 12:06 pm

Tracy Reid You could also try canning some baby food too! I did that when I was still pregnant with my second baby and it was so great and easy to be able to feed her homemade peach baby food in the winter when there weren’t any peaches (or plums, pears etc) available in the store. Easier to do now then after your little one arrives too!

Good luck with your canning! Love your photos!

August 24, 2010 - 10:27 am

Sherri Smith YUMMY! I love the idea of peach crisp for Thanksgiving. Good job Gillian!

August 24, 2010 - 10:26 am

Sherri Smith YUMMY! I love the idea of a peach crisp for Thanksgiving! Good job Gillian!