High-acid content food, such as fruits, jams, jellies and some tomatoes, is a snap to preserve using boiling-water canning. This method is the easiest – and a great way to become familiar with the whole process. From start to finish, preparing a batch of canned peaches or jam takes roughly three to four hours.
Start by preparing the canner according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Second, sterilize jars and prepare lids.
To sterilize jars prior to canning, you can use one of these methods:
- Dishwasher. Run jars through a sterilize cycle on a dishwasher, keeping jars in the dishwasher on “heated dry” until you need them.
- Wash and boil. Wash jars by hand in hot, sudsy water, and then boil for 10 minutes using the canner and jar rack. Keep jars hot until you need them by allowing them to sit in the hot water in the canner, or by setting them on a thick towel and filling each with boiling water.
- Oven. Place jars, open side up, on a cookie sheet in a 200° oven. Slip jars into the oven before you start preparing produce for processing; leave them there until you need them.
To keep jars from cracking, make sure they stay hot until you place them, filled, into the canner. If you filled the jars with boiling water, you can save that hot water by using the jar lifter to up-end jars into your canner.
A common challenge during canning is having enough boiling water on hand. Some cooks invest in an oversize kettle. Others fill a stockpot with water and keep it hot during the process, dipping from it as needed.
Prepare fruit, such as peaches, by skinning and cutting it into quarters. Use a product like Fruit-Fresh on peaches and apples to keep flesh from browning, which can occur even in the finished jar. Pack fruit into jars hot or cold. With cold pack, stuff uncooked fruit into jars and cover with boiling water. Hot packing produces a better result with brighter color.
Place flat metal lids into a pot of hot – not boiling – water. This softens the lid’s rubber ring, which helps ensure a solid seal.
Follow your recipe to prepare a sugar solution; add peaches to the solution. Cook for the designated time, and then strain fruit from the solution. Save the solution – you’ll use it.
Ladle fruit into jars; a wide-mouth funnel makes this task easier. Leave 1/2- to 1-inch headspace between the top of the fruit and the jar rim.
Insert a non-metal spatula or plastic chopstick between the fruit and jar sides to remove air bubbles. Tilt jars slightly and press inward on the fruit to release bubbles. Air bubbles can trap bacteria, so you want to remove as many as possible.
Pour hot syrup solution over peaches, leaving 1/2-inch headspace between the liquid and jar rim. Use a ruler to measure this space.
Wipe jar rims with a damp rag. A clean rim ensures a tight seal. Place a flat lid onto each jar. Add screw bands, turning until finger-tight.
Use a jar lifter to lower jars onto the rack in the boiling-water canner. Jars shouldn’t touch. Water level must be at least 1 inch above jar lids. Add water as needed. Increase heat until water boils. Set a kitchen timer for the correct processing time (20 minutes for hot-packed peaches in pint jars).
Set the lid in place on the canner and maintain a gentle boil during processing. Make sure the water level remains at least 1 inch above jars; add water as needed. When processing is done, use the lifter to move jars to a towel or cooling rack. Space between jars facilitates cooling.
After jars cool for 12 to 24 hours, test seals. Gently press down on the center of the lid. If it springs up when you lift your finger, the jar isn’t sealed. Reprocess within 24 hours, or refrigerate and consume within five days.
Label jars with the contents and their date. Store without screw bands in a cool, dark, dry place. Consume canned fruits within one year; jams and jellies, within six months.