52 Homesteading Skills in One Year – Project #5: Learning to water bath can
It was supposed to be easy. I was going to can dozens and dozens of sliced peaches and show you all just how fun it could be.
I ended up with four jars. Four. Oh, we’ll definitely make it through the winter now. If there’s an emergency, you can all come over and share my four jars of soggy, floating peaches. Yes, folks. My canned peaches were pitiful.They turned mushy (boiling them before packing was a mistake) and because I didn’t pack them tight enough in the jar, the result was floating fruit…
But I’d like to point out (to make myself feel better) the peaches are still safe to eat and, in fact, tasty, according to our official taste tester:
“Wow! They taste just like peaches. Mommy, you’re a professional.”
I love that girl!
The good news is I tried again and discovered something even better than canned sliced peaches – Pumpkin Spiced Peach Sauce. Trust me. After you try peach sauce, you’ll wonder why you wanted to can sliced peaches in the first place. I am now dreaming of slathering this stuff over pancakes, cakes, yogurt, ice cream or just plain eating it straight out of the jar.
Before we get started I must admit that when I first looked into water bath canning, I was completely overwhelmed. It seemed like you needed a degree in biochemistry or you’d die of botulism.
Just the list of equipment was enough to intimidate me. So I went out to Canadian Tire and bought a canning kit for $59.99, which includes a 21-quart canner, jar lifter, lid lifter, funnel, bubble remover and a few other knick knacks.
Now that I’ve actually tried canning, I realize I could have done without everything except the jar lifter, which I ended up breaking. Some people might make the mistake of using the plastic end instead of the rubber end and guess what? The plastic will break in the hot water. Yeah, I know. I may not be the smartest homesteader on the block.
What you really need is a large pot, mason jars and something to lift the hot jars out of the scalding water.
A simple spatula is all you need to remove bubbles and a funnel is nice, but if you’re good with a spoon, it’s not necessary.
A canner also comes with a metal rack to hold the jars off the bottom of the pot where they could break due to the extra heat. Instead you could just place a cloth at the bottom of your pot.
Now that we’ve got the equipment out of the way, let’s get started. Although the list of steps may seem complicated, it really isn’t. You do have to be able to follow instructions, but other than that, it’s actually quite simple.
Wait until your peaches are ripe and then toss them in the freezer. I meant to leave mine for a couple hours, but they ended up sitting there overnight. No harm done. Note: You will need about 2 – 3 lbs. of peaches per quart jar (4 – 6 medium).
Wash your jars and lids in hot soapy water. In the past, it was also recommended to sterilize the jars and lids, but if your water-bath processing time will be over 10 minutes (which it is for peach sauce), this step is no longer necessary. Your jars do need to be warm so as not to risk breakage when you add the jar to a hot canner. So make sure you wash them in hot water.
Run your peaches under lukewarm water and like magic the peels will slip right off. I was skeptical of this little peeling tip, but it really works.
Make a peach sculpture. Okay, this isn’t necessary, but it’s a lot of fun.
Once the peaches have thawed enough to cut through, chop your peaches into quarters and toss the pits.
Place the peaches in a saucepan, bring to a boil and let simmer for 2 to 5 minutes. This is called “hot-packing”. It helps keep the food from floating in the jars, increases vacuum in sealed jars and improves shelf life.
Add a teaspoon of pumpkin spice per four cups of puree. Many store bought versions contain sugar. Try my easy peasy homemade version:
Pumpkin Spice Recipe
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
Puree the peaches in a blender until smooth.
Spoon the peach sauce into your jars to within 1/2 inch of the top rim and add 1 tsp of lemon juice to each jar to preserve colour. If you don’t care about the colour, you can skip this step.
Remove air bubbles by running a spatula around the inside of the jar.
Wipe jar rims clean to ensure a proper seal.
Add the lid and rings and screw them on “fingertip” tight. If the lids are put on too tightly, any air bubbles that weren’t removed in step 9 can’t escape during the hot water bath and your lids could buckle.
Place the jars into your canning pot on top of a rack or, as I mentioned earlier, a cloth. Fill the pot with water ensuring at least 1 inch of water above the tops of the lids. Cover canner. Bring to a boil and set your timer for the appropriate amount of time. Here are the guidelines if you live below 1,000 feet elevation:
500 ml – 20 minutes
1 litre – 25 minutes
1.5 litre – 35 minutes
If you live above 1,000 feet elevation, click here for recommendations.
Once the rolling boil has settled down, use a jar lifter to remove the jars and set them aside to cool for 24 hours. After cooling, check your jar seals. The lids shouldn’t move when you push down with your finger and if you remove the rings, you should be able to lift the jar into the air by the lid alone. Label and store jars in a cool, dark place.
And that’s it. Canning is definitely a homesteading art form that may take a little practice. But watch out! It’s addictive. I’m now packing up tomatoes and wondering what I can do next?
How about you? Do you can peaches or will you try? I would love to hear your experiences.