Enough with the public angst. There are more important things at stake. As in: ripe fruit. It is high time to funnel your inner grandmother, find some peaches, and dedicate an afternoon to stashing summer in a jar.
When I was little my grandparents canned enough to keep all twenty grandchildren in peaches for the entire winter. We slathered them on french toast, ate them with ice cream, dumped them in yoghurt. Putting fruit away was an expedition-sized production. The entire process was coordinated by my grandmother Ruth. My Grandpa Len would be sent to Osoyoos for boxes of peaches, and was in charge of doing all of the dishes. This was the kind of man who never made himself a sandwich until my Grandmother was eighty-four and she decided enough was enough and he needed to learn to put two pieces of bread with a little butter together without her assistance thank-you-very-much. We were all shocked by her sassy-ness as she aged. A few weeks before she died she told me she was going to learn French so we could go to Paris and she could order all the wine. This was a proper Christian lady who did not do such things. I was impressed. But, that is an aside. I should be focusing on the fruit.
On canning days we would all boil, cool, chop, stuff, and pour until sweat pooled on our faces from the steam, and my grandmother’s perfect curls lost their form. Somehow, out of the chaos, row after row of shiny fruit jars arrived on the counter. Totally miraculous, every time.
A few years ago my friend Kate and I started our own canning festival. It always seems to occur on the nicest weekend of the summer. It is hard to stay inside, and I grumble a lot. But, in February when the weather is rotten and summer fruit is piled on top of my granola, sacrificing a day at the lake is remembered as an impeccably good decision.
So, go forth, and before it is too late can yourself some peaches! They will be delicious. You will be happy. You will make friends when you give jars away. Or, like me, you will hoard your fruit and wonder why you are lonely. Don’t hoard. Its bad practice. But, either way, spending the next few hours with your peaches will be worth it completely.
Canned Peaches a la Ruth Smith
4 pint jars
5 pounds peaches
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
Vanilla Bean (optional)
1. Prepare your canner and ensure you have very, very clean or sterile pint jars. Place the lids in a small saucepan, cover them with water, and simmer over very low heat.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl two-thirds full with ice-cold water. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the water. This is for your peaches to chill out in while they wait to be added to the jars.
3. Working in batches, add the peaches to the boiling water and cook for 60 seconds. Immediately transfer the peaches to the bowl filled with ice-cold water. This is called “blanching.”
4. Once each batch is cool enough to handle, remove the skins with your fingers. Half, pit, and quarter the peaches. Return the fruit to the lemon water so it does not turn brown.
5. Combine the sugar with 4 cups water (and vanilla if you would like) in a large saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a gentle boil. This will be your syrup.
6. Funnel/stuff the peaches into the jars.
7. Fill each jar with syrup so that there’s just 1/2 inch space between the top of the liquid and the rim of the jar. Gently tap the jars or use a chopstick to dance the fruit around to get rid of air bubbles.
8. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.
9. When time is up, remove jars from the canner and let them cool on a folded kitchen towel for 12 hours.
10. Store in a cool dark place, and enjoy!