I love autumn time. Harvest is coming, and the peaches are ripe. Pears and apples are coming soon. Grapes are turning purple, and the apricots are begging to be picked. The bounties of the garden are ours for the taking. Unfortunately, the season doesn’t last long. Winter is coming, and with it comes cold and snow. There will be no more gardening for a while, but the desire for fresh, sweet fruit doesn’t subside as the seasons change.
When preparing dinner, it is so satisfying to survey the pantry shelves and choose a jar of cherries or applesauce to serve the family. It’s like a little taste of summer when the weather is the coldest. It not only provides nutrition for the body; it also feeds the soul. The fresh, vibrant colors and sweetness of the fruit are just perfect for topping off a meal.
It is not difficult to bottle fruit. In fact, it is the easiest thing to can, and so many people start with that. It doesn’t require pressuring. Instead, fruits can generally be processed in a boiling waterbath. Any large pan with a rack in the bottom will do. It doesn’t take a lot of fancy equipment. For those just trying out the process, it’s a great way to start.
The general instructions are simple. Take a quart canning jar and put in a third cup of sugar. Add about one inch of hot water and swish around to dissolve the sugar. (This is similar to a light syrup, and maybe lighter than that, but for us, it’s just about right.) Add the fruit, then top off with enough hot water to come to the bottom of the threads. Then it is very important to take a wet rag and wipe the top edge of the jar. There is a good chance that it won’t seal if there are even small amounts of sugar or fruit there. It must be very clean. Then wet the lid, using a new lid each time, and put it on. Screw down the ring tightly with your hands.
Now it is ready to go into the waterbath. Lower the jar into the water carefully. One thing to remember is that if cold jars are put into hot water, or hot jars are put into cold water, there is a risk of breaking them. Try to put jars into water that has a temperature that is at least similar to the temperature of the water in the jar.
Cover the jars with about one inch of water above the lids. Some of it will boil away during the processing. Then bring it to a boil and keep it boiling for the recommended amount of time. This does vary according to the elevation, so those living at higher elevations will need to process their jars a little longer. To save electricity, or gas, set a lid loosely on the pan to retain heat. The water will boil sooner, and once boiling, the heat can be turned down somewhat for the rest of the time. Just remember to keep it boiling at all times.
Let’s start with peaches. Canning with the skins on is not really recommended. The easiest way to skin them is to put them in boiling water for a minute or so to cook just the outside of the fruit. Use a saucepan that will fit several if speed is essential. Come to think of it, I don’t know when speed isn’t essential at canning time! Let them cook for about a minute, then lift them out with a slotted spoon and put them right into a bowl of cold water. Wait a minute for them to cool, then pick one up. Slice all the way around it with the knife, splitting it in half. The skin will slide right off, and if they are freestone peaches, the stone is easy to pull out. The put the peaches in the jars that already have sugar and hot water, cut side down for the prettiest jars. If they are too big, or if your family prefers, they can also be quartered or sliced. When the jars are full, wipe the top, put on the lid and ring, and process.
The general rule for processing peaches in a boiling water bath is 30 minutes at a boil. However, if you live at a higher altitude, you will need to add two minutes for every thousand feet above sea level. For instance, I live at about 5000 feet elevation, so I would add 10 minutes. I then process my peaches for 40 minutes.
When the time is up, lift them carefully out of the pan with a jar lifter. They don’t cost much, but they are worth their weight in gold! Place them on a folded towel to cool. Keep them out of drafts as they cool. They should not be cooled in the pan, as it is important to cool them faster than that. When cool, use a permanent marker to mark the date on them so that they can be rotated with the rest of your food storage. One lady marks on hers while still hot with a crayon. The wax in the crayon then melts and then hardens to a permanent mark.
Peaches are wonderful to have around. We like to eat them in a bowl with our meal, but we also like to use them in crisps, pies and such. Then, even if it is a dessert, the family is still getting some fruit and grains, instead of just empty calories.
Spicy Peach Crumble
- 1 quart peaches (drained and sliced)
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar (packed)
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 cup flour (white or wheat)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
- 1/4 cup quick oats
- 2 tablespoons butter
|In a bowl mix the peaches 2 TBSP brown sugar, corn starch, cinnamon, ginger and allspice. Mix together until peaches are well coated.|
|Place peach mixture in 8" round or square glass baking dish.|
|Mix the rest of the ingredients together, except the butter. Cut in the butter and mix until crumbly. Sprinkle this crumb topping over the peach mixture.|
|Microwave uncovered on high 10-15 minutes, turn ½ turn every 5 minutes, until peaches are hot and bubbly. Let stand uncovered 10 minutes. Serve warm with whipped cream, ice cream, or plain.|