Sunday, September 16, 2012

Canning Peaches

My relationship with food preservation is erratic.  We don´t have the storage space for much, and we certainly don´t have much space to produce food.  So my experiments with tomatoes, herbs, etc., are necessarily limited in scope.  I´m also always concerned I´m going to crack the ceramic glass stove top or something awful.

That said, I do have a few mason jars and so far have tried canning belgian pears, sweet cherries, apple pie filling, and spiced peaches.  The belgian pears kept forever - over 18 months.  The rest seemed to at least seal well after using a hot water bath.

Then my dear friend W was nice enough to bring me pectin from the US (since I´ve never found it here, and never seen it even referred to) to try some preserves.  The Spanish people I know, friends and family, wouldn´t make their own preserves any more than they´d bake their own bread, which is hardly surprising since they´re mostly city-dwellers.  In fact, very few people I know even eat preserves.  V won´t touch them.  He´d rather just have buttered toast.

But I digress, anyway - I promptly put the pectin somewhere and can´t find it again - and much to my astonishment, I found that one could can peaches in light syrup without any pectin, or even cooking them, for that matter.  So I did.  I par boiled them and then plunged into cold water.  The skins slipped off without much trouble, but I could not figure out how to halve them without it turning into a squishy, juicy mess.  The pit wouldn´t release from the slices without disintegrating, so I ended up with odd shaped quarters instead.  My jar packing technique needs work too - they certainly looked full at the time, but now space seems available with the peaches floating toward the top of the jar.

The jars were put into a boiling bath with a folded tea towel in the bottom to keep them off the direct heat and the water 3/4´s up the sides of the tall jars - the smaller ones were submerged.  They simmered for just under 30 minutes, then I just shut off the ring and let them cool in the bath, à la Cottage Smallholder.  And if I couldn´t locate the pectin, I did find a River Cottage Preserves book I forgot I had - so I guess it all evens out.

Now if I could find some Seville oranges to make really dark marmelade. . .


  1. We used to bottle all our fruit.With peaches I would use a medium syrup, three cups of sugar to three cups of water, dissolve the sugar in the water over low heat until it is a light golden colour. If you want to peel your peaches plunge them into boiling water for two minutes and then straight into very cold water, I would always cut the peach into slices lengthways but if you want half's you should be able to cut in half then twist, one half should come away making it easier to remove the stone. Pack them as tightly as you can in the jars then fill to the top with your sugar syrup,put the lids on tightly and let them rest for a few minutes, turn them upside down to get rid of any air bubbles then top up the jars again if needed, all the fruit should be covered.Then place into your cold water bath and start timing from when it comes to a low boil, 25-30 minutes, remove straight away putting them onto a board or double tea towel, the lids will have become slightly loose during the boiling, so holding the jar with a tea towel tighten up the lids fully, you will know if you have a good seal as the lids will indent when they cool. I did some blackberries last week as it's the only spare fruit we have, and we still have peaches which I did our last year in Spain. I have never heard of using pectin for bottling fruit, it would normally be used for giving a good firm set to jam, but I have never used it. We never found Seville oranges in Spain, maybe they are all exported. I used to use any slightly unripe oranges to make marmalade,but maybe you will be lucky and find the Seville's,they should be around in November. Marmalade is not the easiest jam to make and you need to keep all the pips to put in a bag during the boiling process as the pips contain pectin. I will try to find the recipe that worked best for me and Email you.

  2. Hi Coco,
    Anne is right you really don't need bought pectin, I Know that most American recipes include it though. a little lemon juice works as do a few sour apples,(You can make a kind of home made pectin from crab apples if you can find them) Most fruit, as long as it is not over ripe will set into jam with just a bit of lemon juice added. Never even heard of it used in bottled fruit.

    You will have plenty of opportunity once you are in Galicia and it does give you that kind of "Little house on the prairie" homey feel. (Is that a bit uncool?)

  3. You´re right, of course, pectin is for jams and jellies. I remember my Mother despairing over steaming pots of jelly that never gelled.

    On the contrary - the whole local, foodie, handmade movement i.e. Martha Stewart, has given domestic and craft skills considerable cachet back in the US, at least in certain circles. The suburban mall people will never come around. I always get the feeling that Gallegos (and Spanish in general) find knowing those skills embarrassing. Bring on the homey!!

    I´ll need more jars. . .

  4. I think that in general people that were raised on the land consider that to have this knowledge or to allow people to know that they have this knowledge in this affluent western society, feel that it classes them as peasants, where as they should be proud to be classed as such. The peasant society is the backbone and foundation of a settled civilised. We aim to live our life as peasants and are happy to have the skills and knowledge to feed ourselves, to raise our live stock and be able to slaughter them and to make use of their skins or feathers.To be able to build a house or in our case two houses and to restore another one with very little input of either materials or builders.
    As we look around the local area we are dismayed at the lack of veg gardens, yet daily we hear people moaning on the radio of how little money they have to live on, money that the state hands out to them because they are unemployed, yet they do nothing to help themselves as they believe they would be returning to the peasant life of their forefathers.