I recently found out that the peach trees in Ontario most likely won't bear much fruit this year and we've come to accept that we will not be in our 'forever home' for at least 6 months, so no homegrown peaches out of our own property either. When I saw that a Georgia Peach Truck was going to be parked in a parking lot down the block from our house for two hours last week, I made sure we were there bright and early to buy 25 lbs of peaches. This landed up being about 50 medium to large freestone peaches.Yesterday they were ready for canning.
Last year we did a peach canning experiment. We were appalled at the amount of sugar that goes into canned peaches and since we try to cut back on sugar, we had to find a better way. We did some of our peaches in a very light honey based syrup. Then we did the same thing but doubled the honey. And the last type was using a light sugar based syrup. We found the light honey based syrup too tart and the double honey too sweet and the light sugar wayyyy too sweet-the kids wouldn't eat them. So, this year we decided to do everything between the light and the double honey. The only problem is that we were out of honey when I was ready to can and I didn't have a vehicle to get more honey, so I checked to see if agave nectar would work in the place of honey. The wise old internet told me that it would, so that is what I did this year.
A few people have asked me for my recipe, so here it is:
4-6 medium peaches per quart jar
Enough quart jars for the amount of peaches you want to can.
Sterilize your wide-mouth canning jars in the dishwasher before beginning your peaches. If you don't have a dishwasher, which we don't right now, I place empty open jars in the canner as the water is heating to a boil and remove them just as I am ready to fill the jars with peaches. Also take your lids and rings and place them in a pot of water to boil.
Bring 7 cups of water and 1/3 cup of honey (or agave nectar/syrup) to a boil on the stove. (I tripled this recipe for 12 quarts of peaches)
Bring a large pot of water to boil.
I cut an x on the bottom of each peach before I put it in the water to blanch. This makes peeling a little easier. Submerge as many of your peaches as fit in your pot into the boiling water for 30-60 seconds. Remove them with a slotted spoon and submerge them in a large bowl of ice water for about 40 seconds. The peel will come off super easy. When the peel is removed, I cut the peaches in half and remove the stone and put the peaches in cold water with a Tbsp (or just a squirt) of 'real lemon juice' to help keep their colour. Some use ascorbic acid or 'fresh fruit' for this, but I've always just used lemon juice and it's worked fine for me. Some people like their peaches sliced or cubed, but I am pretty picky about the texture of stuff and find that often peaches can become mushy if they are cut smaller than in half, so I always keep them in halves or quarters.
Set your sterilized jars on your counter and fill each jar by placing the cut sides of the peaches down and towards the middle of the jars. Fill the jar with as many peach halves as possible, but be careful not to squish them. Pour 1 tsp of lemon juice into each jar.
Fill the jar with your prepared syrup. Carefully stick a bubble remover (or butter knife) into the sides of the jar to remove excess air bubbles. Leave a 1/2 inch headspace at the top of the jar.
Place lids and rings on your jars and place filled jars into a boiling water bath. Make sure that the water covers the tops of the jars when the rack is lowered into the pot. Boil and process for 25 minutes for quart size jars.
After 25 minutes remove jars from boiling bath and set on a towel to cool. Do not move the jars until the jars have sealed. I just leave them on the counter for about 24 hours or overnight, just to be sure. You should hear a light popping sound as the lid seals. If a jar does not seal (you can tell by pushing on the lid) you can put it in the fridge and eat it within a few days. Some people re-process them, but I have never tried this.
**It is very important to practice safe canning methods. If you are new to canning or need a refresher, please check out these health and safety suggestions found in THIS link.**