We grew up canning peaches every couple years in the Wayward household. I remembered it as a lot of hot, sticky work, using out sinks and pots and pans and a big canner. While it's still hot and sticky sometimes (I haven't gotten all the sugar off my stove!), it doesn't take a big canner or a lot of special equipment to can your own fruit!
Most fruit is safe to can using a boiling water bath, and peaches are no exception. You'll want to check with your local extension to find out the best processing time for your elevation first. I started with July Flame freestone yellow peaches (aren't they gorgeous?). We bought a 25lb box through a local co-op and before we could even make a dent in them, they were starting to ripen. So I canned about half of them one day last week.
First you need to fill your tallest pot with water and set it on to boil. I have a stock pot, and really, nothing shorter than that will work. Even with that pot, I could only use shorter wide-mouthed pint jars. Here's the set up: the stock pot is on the back burner on the left-hand side. It has a colander or inner basket that goes with it (on the back right-hand burner). The front burner is the pot with sugar syrup.
The sugar syrup helps the fruit to keep it shape, color and flavor, though it isn't necessary to preserve it. I chose a very light syrup (about 10% sugar, or 1 cup of sugar boiled in 7 cups of water), but you can use a heavier syrup or even apple or white grape juice. Whatever you choose, it needs to be hot, hence the pot on the stove.
Now we prepare the fruit. First, we have to peel them. We need a big bath of ice water, and you can use a big bowl, but we've always used one part of our sink. (I used the adjoining part of my sink to keep the jars hot in hot water, so my ice melted quickly.) I could fit four large peaches on one level in the strainer basket.
Dip them in the boiling water for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. (The less ripe your fruit is, the longer this takes. A longer time helps make it easier to slip the skins off the fruit.)
(This is the same pot of boiling water I'll be using to process the jars.)
After the time was up, I drained the basket and dumped the peaches into the ice bath:
To get the peel off, use a knife to cut an X in the skin. You can peel the skin off after that (sometimes this works better than others).
Then cut the fruit up. I always have a tough time cutting up ripe soft fruits, but I found a good way this time. After cutting all the way around the fruit, put the knife back into the cut and twist the handle. This wedges the halves open, at least allowing you to get your fingers in there to pull it apart.
Remove the pit. You can leave the peach in halves, or you can cut it into quarters or slices. I sliced mine. However you cut your peaches, they'll need an ascorbic acid bath. I used Fruit Fresh and water in a bowl:
Before packing, I heated up the jars more by dipping them in the still-boiling pot of water. (I did the same with the lids and rings). I did use two pieces of special inexpensive equipment: a jar funnel and a jar lifter.
I used a knife to make sure I had at least half an inch of headspace above the liquid and fruit, and to run along the edges to release any trapped bubbles.
Then I warmed up the lids and put them on, then the rings, only finger tight. I used extra rings as a "rack" on the bottom of the boiling water pot to keep water circulating around all sides of the jars:
These rings are to half-pint jars, so they're smaller than the bottoms of my jars--otherwise, the jars tend to fall inside the rings. I only made three jars at a time because that was all that fit inside the pot. I used a jar lifter to put the jars into the water and made sure the water covered them well. Once the water returned to a boil, I started the timer (40 minutes, I think, for my elevation).
I used the jar lifter to get them out again and let them cool on a towel. All but one of the lids POPPED, meaning they're sealed and safe (the one jar went into the fridge).
17 large peaches yielded 11 pints of canned peaches.
Want to get started canning? There are some coupons in yesterday's paper (SmartSource coupons) for $2 off a canning discovery kit or $1 off canning supplies from Ball. I have four coupons which I won't be using, so if you can't find yours, just leave a comment saying you want a coupon here and I'll send you one! (If we have more than four people who want them by July 18th, I'll choose at random.)