It has been a really busy summer and I have not had a chance to put up any preserves. I missed strawberry season, rhubarb season, blackberry season, local cherry season, and blueberry season. As we roll into the last week or two of local peaches, I had to get out the funnel and the lids and get to canning. So I got a bushel of peaches from Amy McConnell Shaarsmith (hell of a long name for a farmer) and got to work.
McConnell's Farm, out in Moon, grows the best peaches in the region. Their family has farmed the same land for over 200 years, the original land granted in 1787 for service in the American Revolution. You can see it all here:
So Amy was kind enough to hook me up with 4 pecks of peaches that were culls, pick-outs, seconds, etc. They cost nearly nothing and were perfectly fine. I sorted into three piles; eating, juicing, and peach butter. The eating peaches were peaches with scars, small bruises, and spots, perfectly solid but not pretty enough for sale. I got about a peck of these and sent most of them to Jake's preschool for snacks for the day. A few others we kept at home, sent to the in laws', etc. The juicers were a little more damaged, but not too bruised or mushy. I got about a peck of these too. Most of the peaches went into the peach butter pot.
So, I have tried over the years to streamline the processes of putting up foods. I always follow the safety guidelines as set out by various Aggie universities but most often from the Penn State site for home canners:
but I try to use some tricks of the professional chef to make it less work in the kitchen. For the peach butter, I washed the peaches, cut out any really messy spots, removed the pits, and filled two large roasting pans. i placed these in the oven overnight @ 225 and cracked the door. This serves two purposes; it cooks the moisture out of the peaches and it fills the house with delightful peach aroma. In the morning, I put the peaches through the food mill into a large pot. This I left on the stove over low heat and asked Mary, my wife to watch and stir it. When it got thick enough, she shut it off and covered it. At night when I got home from work I added sugar and adjusted the taste and put it up.
Result: 26 half pints of peach butter.
For the jelly, I used Sure Gel Pectin and the juiced peaches. Juicing ripe peaches, as one may imagine, produces a thick peach juice and very little waste. I used this pulp and the instructions for peach jam from Sure Gel - 4 C. pulp, 1 box Sure Gel, 2 Tbs. lemon juice, and 5 1/2 C, sugar and it worked out to make the prettiest peach jam/jelly/curd. The jam is opaque, with a color halfway between egg yolk and sunshine. The process went pretty quickly: I juiced enough peaches to make almost 5 quarts of peach juice/pulp first. I cooked a batch of jam, sealed it and boiled it, and as the full jars boiled, I cooked the next batch of jam. Four batches of seven half-pints each was done in about 1 hour.
Result: 28 half pints of peach jam.
Of course, Jake had me open a jar first thing the next morning. We ate some together by the spoon.