Canning peaches is an excellent way to preserve the flavor and texture of a peach, and properly canned peaches can last for years when stored in a cool, dry environment. Following canning directions, along with a few choice tips, can make canning peaches much easier for both experienced and beginner canners.
It is important to choose the peaches properly, and the best variety for canning are free stone peaches that are completely ripe. Ripeness can be determined by gently pressing the peach with a single finger. If the pressure leaves a soft indentation, the peach is ripe. Using such peaches will cut down on time spent pitting the fruit.
Peaches should be peeled to ensure the best texture, and they will peel more quickly if they are blanched in boiling water first, which will allow the skin to strip off without actually cutting into the flesh of the peach. Since the blanched peaches will be hot, it is helpful to wear gloves while handling them. Extremely ripe peaches do not need to be blanched, as the skin will readily peel off.
Some type of preservation is necessary to maintain the peaches' color. Ascorbic acid is the typical ingredient for many canning recipes, but lemon juice diluted in water can be just as effective. It is also more readily available.
Peaches can be halved or sliced for packing into the canning jar depending on personal preference, but typically, more slices can be put into a jar than halves. They should be packed tightly, usually by pushing them down with a spoon. Tapping the jar on a table or counter can also help to settle the contents. It may require some force to get the fruit to settle, so some padding, like a folded towel, should cover the tapping surface.
When canning peaches, sugar is best added when the jar is one-third to one-half full. This helps the sugar to dissipate throughout the entire jar instead of just settling below or above the fruit. After the fruit and sugar are added, water is used to fill in space, but only enough to reach the base of the neck of the jar.
In order for the lids to seal, the peaches must be placed in boiling water for five to 25 minutes. The longer the time, the more cooked the peaches will become. An alternative method of canning peaches is to cook the fruit first and place it in cool jars, screwing on the lids tightly. As the jars cool, they will seal.