How to Preserve the Peach Harvest
Whether you buy them at a farm stand or grow them yourself, preserving peaches for the winter months is a satisfying endeavor.
Wash, pit, and peel ripe peaches. A boiling water dip can be used if the peaches do not peel easily on their own. To prevent discoloration, coat the peaches in a solution of 1/4 tsp crystalline ascorbic acid (available where canning supplies are sold) dissolved in 1/4 cup water. Add 2/3 cup sugar to each 1 quart of fruit and mix gently. Pack leaving headroom for expansion, label the package with the date, and freeze.
Some sources suggest blanching peaches before drying, but I have not found this to be necessary if you are using a commercial dehydrator.
Using dehydrator – (Read your dehydrator’s instructions to make sure it does not contradict the method described here.) Pit fruit & cut to desired size. Some people prefer peeling the peach first but I do not do this. You can dry pieces as large as 1/2 of the peach or cut it into smaller segments or chip-like slices. The thinner the piece, the faster the drying process. Start drying at 130 F and increase gradually during the first hour to 155 F. Turn over pieces when all visible juice has disappeared. Reduce to 140 F when nearly dry to prevent scorching. It can take up to 15 hours for halves and up to 6 hours for slices.
Using an oven: Prepare fruit as for dryer and preheat oven to 145 F. Optionally spread cheesecloth over oven-safe racks and spread fruit cut-side up. Dry for 4 – 12 hours with the door propped open 1 cm to allow steam to escape.
Fully dried peaches should be leathery throughout and tough. If you plan to store them for a long period it is recommended that you heat them in an oven at 175 F for 10 – 15 minutes to kill possible insect eggs. Use airtight containers to store them. If the peaches are not truly dry they are likely to spoil during storage. You can avoid this by storing them in the freezer — which arguably is a waste of energy and freezer space for a food that should be safe on its own. You can also set a coffee filter cut to the size of your storage container over the top of the fruit and place a silica gel desiccate packet on top. This will help reduce moisture during storage. Store dried fruit at temperatures between 40 F and 60 F for the lbest results. Inspect dried foods for moisture, bad odors, mold, or insect damage before eating.
If you are new to canning it is HIGHLY recommended that you read more thoroughly about canning food safety before proceeding.
For canned peach halves, about 2 – 3 lbs of peaches will make a quart canned. Peaches are considered a high acid food safe for boiling water bath canners as long as 1 tbsp of lemon juice is added per pint, or 2 tbsp per quart. To remove skins, wash peaches & dip in boiling water for 30 – 60 seconds then dunk in a cold water bath. Halve & remove pits. To prevent discoloring dissolve 1 tsp ascorbic acid in 1 gallon water and soak halves until ready to place them in a jar. Use very hot water or hot canning syrup (dissolve 1 & 1/2 parts sugar to 2 parts water) as the packing liquid and leave 1/2 inch of headspace. For raw packing, process pints for 25 minutes and quarts for 30 minutes. For hot packing, process pints for 20 minutes and quarts for 25 minutes.
Recipe for Peach Pie Filling
*Requires boiling water bath canner & 7 one-quart jars
- 6 quarts fresh peaches (44 – 48 medium peaches, about 11 lbs), peeled and sliced
- 1 tsp ascorbic acid
- 7 cups sugar
- 2 cups plus 3 tbsp ClearJel
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 5 1/4 cups cold water
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 1 3/4 cups bottled lemon juice, or the juice of about 14 medium lemons
- Place the peaches in 1 gallon of water containing the dissolved ascorbic acid to prevent browning until you proceed to step 2.
- Place 6 cups of fruit at a time in the boiling water.
- Boil each batch for 1 minute after the water returns to a boil. Drain, but keep fruit hot in a covered bowl or pot.
- Combine the sugar, ClearJel, and cinnamon in a large kettle. Stir in the water and almond extract. Stir and cook over medium-high heat until the mixture thickens and starts to bubble.
- Add the lemon juice and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Fold in drained peach slices and continue to heat the mixture for 3 minutes.
- Fill the jars immediately, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Wipe food residue from the rim. Cap and seal.
- Process in a boiling-water bath canner for 30 minutes. Adjust for altitude if necessary. (Canning recipes assume you live less than 1000 feet above sea level. For each additional 1000 feet add 2 minutes to processing time for this recipe. So, if you live 3000 feet above sea level you would process your canned peach pie filling for 34 minutes.)
- Remove and allow to cool for 24 hours. Most canning sources recommend storing the jars without the screw-bands to prevent rusting. Well-sealed jars lids will remain sealed without them. If you plan to move your jars around while traveling it is a good idea to put the screw-bands back onto the jars.
Examine all canned goods for a popped seal (the button will pop when pressed) foul odors, discoloring, mold, insect damage, or any other suspicious changes before you eat them. If these are present discard the entire jar safely.