A couple of weeks ago, a friend called. "A family from our church is heading to Yakima to pick up peaches," she told me. "Do you want some?"
Yakima is an agricultural city on the eastern side of the Cascade Range in mid-state Washington. Apparently this family was fetching back somewhere on the order of 700 boxes of peaches, and taking orders from anyone who wanted some.
At the astounding price of $14 per 25-lb box ($0.56/lb!) you bet I did! I ordered five boxes, 125 lbs. of peaches.
Well, five boxes in theory and five boxes in reality are two entirely different things. Quick, gotta can those peaches!
Peaches are, hands-down, my all time favorite fruit in the world. Having fresh canned peaches through the cold snowy days of winter would be a treat indeed.
I knew we had a lot of work in front of us.
I waited four or five days after getting the peaches, to let them ripen a bit. Then I got out some quart jars.
Peaches can be peeled easily if they're dipped in near-boiling water for a few minutes.
Then I dropped the hot peaches into a bowl of cool water for a couple minutes (sorry, forgot to get a photo) before draining them.
At this stage, peeling is a cinch. The skins just pull right off.
Peeled and ready to slice.
Sliced peaches and filling jars. To the right you can see the bowl where hot peaches are cooling. At this point I had peaches in all stages of production: dipping in hot water, cooling, draining, peeling, slicing, filling jars.
Younger Daughter is making syrup. I prefer to use a light syrup, which means a 2:1 ratio of water:sugar.
The sugar-water is heated until the sugar dissolves.
Here's the production line.
Targeted for the compost pile, making for happy ants and wasps!
Jars with peaches, ready for syrup.
Ladling hot syrup over the fruit.
24 quarts, ready to cap.
Naturally I used my biggest pots.
I use a rack at the bottom of each pot. Canning jars should never be in direct contact with the heat source or they're more likely to crack.
Time to pull out my buckets of Tattler gaskets, lids, and rings.
Tattler gaskets need to be heated prior to use. I boil some water, then turn off the heat and drop the gaskets and lids into the hot water for a few minutes.
Then it's time to start capping the jars.
Into the pots. When water-bath canning, water should cover the tops of the jars by about an inch. My biggest pots hold twelve quarts between them.
I covered the pots, turned up the heat, and waited for the water to come to a boil.
Rolling boil! Start timing. Peaches (in quart jars) need to be water-bathed for 30 minutes.
First 24 quarts done, about half the peaches. Enough for one day.
The next morning it was the same routine. Peaches peaches peaches.
Younger Daughter wanted to make lunch, but the only way she could reach a burner on the stove was from the back side.
While getting new jars ready to can, I washed the cooled jars to remove the sticky syrup residue. It's not unusual for jars to vent a bit of the contents upon removal, before they seal.
I also washed the rings before reusing.
After many hours of work, I finally got those five boxes empty.
Time to clean up the chaos.
Final tally by evening: 47 quarts, 8 pints, 1 pooped-out canner.
Ah, but the next morning, with the sun shining through those beautiful jars, I could stand back and admire my handiwork.
There's nothing prettier than jars of canned food, but I'm glad it's done!