Lessons in canning

I put canning peaches in my list of things I wanted to do this month on sort of on a whim. On one hand, I have always wanted to learn to can foods, but on the other, it’s always seemed like a really complicated – and, frankly, risky (I’m afraid it’ll give me the power to inadvertently kill someone) – practice. Then I saw that Urban Digs had organic peaches at the farm stand. They said they were seconds and perfect for canning and it seemed like a sign. Two days later, we headed over to the farm and in the meantime, I studied the literature. All of it.

25. Awesome August Day 9

Aside from being delicious, peaches are a good fruit to include in your diet for a number of reasons. They are rich in vitamins and beta carotene, help lower cholesterol and lower the risk of depression among other things. Check out a more expanded list of peach facts here.

This may seem like a boring detail, but it is so absurdly ME that I can’t resist sharing. We got to the farm and upon being greeted, I immediately asked about the peaches. Sure enough, there was a box on display. We looked at it – and this is where we get authentically and ridiculously Carly – I immediately thought there is no way that one box will be enough. “We’ll take two!” And that’s how we became the proud new owners of 40 pounds of Okanagan peaches.

You see, I always start strong, but my finish is a little weaker. I have a large collection of yarn, knitting needles and patterns and only about four very basis scarves to show for that. Halfway through Canning Day, as I was still in the middle of my first box of peaches, I wondered what on earth I had gotten myself into.

So, by the time Canning Day had rolled around, I’d meshed together all of my learnings and devised a plan of attack. I’d mostly combined the overall peach plan from BC Tree Fruits with Simply Canning’s raw pack method and rolled up my sleeves.

Here’s the short version of how to can peaches (description, not instruction):

  1. Clean your jars
  2. Make a sugar syrup
  3. Peel peaches
  4. Stuff peaches into jars
  5. Fill jars with syrup
  6. Put lids on jars
  7. Process jars in hot water

And here are a few things I learned in the process.

  • 40 pounds is a lot of peaches. It was lucky that the day before my project, I’d mentioned to my parents that I was doing this and mom said, “Do you want my canner?” Uh, YEAH! With the canner came two dozen .5 litre jars and that, friends, that was a lifesaver. (I’d bought twelve litre jars. Ha!)
  • It’s best to do some pot/vessel management pre-canning. There is a complex balance to navigate between all of the actions at play at any given point. There is the canner itself, a pot to keep the syrup hot, a pot to boil the peaches for skinning and you will also need to keep the jars you plan to use warm. This can occupy another element on your stove or, as I found out midway through the day, you can, run the jars through the dishwasher and keep them warm in there, plucking them out as needed.
  • Before you get started, make yourself lots of counterspace, empty both sinks if you have two and keep lots of clean tea towels at hand. I thought I did the first, didn’t do the second and accidentally got the third one right.
  • Don’t make plans for when you’re done. This is mostly because it’s going to take you much longer than you think and/or all freaking day. Also, to this end, get lots of podcasts or Netflix movies lined up ahead of time.
  • Coffee. Plan for it. And have a runner loved one on hand to take care of the necessities – food, drinks, sanity.
  • It isn’t the end of the world (or all of your hard work) if you do, after trying your best, have air bubbles in your jars. Given how much emphasis there is on getting rid of them, I thought someone might die from bubbles, but it turns out that it’s just good advice/best practice. We’re all going to live. (I really wish I’d know this before and not after.)
  • It’s even more rewarding than I imagined. I’m not going to lie – I’m pretty proud of myself.

My work is not complete. Next up: finding a place to store the peaches, all thirty-four (34!) jars of them.

5 thoughts on “Lessons in canning

  1. allison says:

    34 jars! wow! you’re going to be so happy in the winter when you have all sorts of delicious fruit.
    storage? back of bottom cabinets? low boxes under beds? back of the closet?

    • Carly-Ann says:

      I’m not going to lie, Allison, the thought of peaches with ice cream in the middle of the winter helped get me through!

  2. Amy says:

    OMG. Do you know how bad I want peaches now!?! Sounds delicious. Although, I know what you mean. Sounds like a great idea and then once your knee deep, you’re all, WTF did I do this for? Ugh!

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