A key skill for any prepper is growing and then preserving your own food. One of the most common results of manmade and natural disasters is an interruption in supply lines that fill those handy grocery stores. However, if you grow and store at least some of your own food, supply-line interruptions don’t have to be a concern.
Years ago, I planted a fruit cocktail tree—one of those trees that grows lots of different types of fruits. I managed to kill it off, except the roots. The roots shot up a beautiful peach tree. This last fall it finally had a full crop of peaches.
I had all my family help pick our peaches and bring them into the house. Once we saw all the peaches together, we knew we couldn’t eat them all by ourselves. They’d definitely go bad before we ate them all. We decided to give away a few to neighbors and friends that said they wanted some, but that still left us with about a bushel and a half of peaches. That’s a lot of peaches.
We decided to can our remaining peaches. I naively figured I’d make an afternoon of it. The afternoon turned into a late night, and didn’t take care of even half the peaches.
It turned out that even though the peaches tasted great, they were not quite ripe enough to get the skins off. We blanched the peaches to loosen the skin, but that had little affect. We ended up spending massive amounts of time peeling slimy blanched peaches by hand.
Some of the pits willingly came out of the peaches when cut, but again, having picked the peaches too early, the pits of most of the peaches were firmly seated in the meat of the peach.
I initially thought I’d need to pressure cook my quarts of peaches to can them properly, but found from studying a few books on the topic that peaches are best canned in a hot water bath. Their acidity makes the hot water bath canning possible. Less acidic foods do need canning in a pressure cooker.
Modern stoves don’t play well with canners or other large pots. Flattop stoves are especially bad at pressure cooking, because they can’t guarantee continuous heat. Other stoves have burners that are too small. The solution we came up with was using a large high-quaility hotplate to heat our pressure cooker (or other large pots.)
Everything seemed to turn out all right with our canning, so I put the jars of peaches down in the basement for the winter. Finally, we decided it was time to try out our canned peaches. We ate our first quart of peaches in mid January. I admit I was nervous eating food (even canned food) that had sat on the shelf for almost four months.
The peaches tasted great!
We learned a few things from our first experience in canning peaches. Firstly, don’t pick the whole tree in one go, and then think everything will go easy in canning the peaches. Canning the peaches, and especially taking the skins off, takes time. We should have only picked as many peaches as we needed for one or two batches of canning.
Hot water bath canning is pretty easy, but the pot I used barely covered the jar lids when full. I had to stand right by the hot water bath, constantly adjusting heat and water levels to prevent the boiling water from getting all over the stove, or falling below the level of the jar lids and ruining the canning process. We’ve since then found a better deeper pot to do future hot water bath canning in.
We’re looking forward to another season of peaches next fall. I feel a little more prepared to deal with the peach harvest this time.