Peaches are the quintessential canning fruit for good reason: they make it through the canning process with more of their color, flavor, and texture intact than other fruits do. They're also just as delicious canned as fresh, and can be used for a wide range of recipes (or on their own with vanilla ice cream on top!).
Two Canning Methods
There are two basic ways to safely can peaches: the hot pack method and the raw pack method. Although it requires fewer steps, the cold pack method results in an inferior product. Raw packed fruit tends to shrink during processing and float up out of the canning liquid. The pieces that float to the top discolor and are unappealing once the jars are opened. The hot pack method reduces the likelihood of fruit float and discoloration.
Choose Your Fruit with Care
Choose firm, unblemished peaches for canning. It is best to use ones that are slightly underripe. Overly ripe fruit is more likely to float in the jars, and also has a lower acid content. It is the natural acidity of the peaches that helps to preserve them, not the canning liquid.
If you want to can peach halves, make sure to choose a freestone rather than clingstone variety. Clingstone peaches are impossible to separate from the pits into neat halves.
Blanch and Skin the Peaches
Blanching is a process that involves dropping fruit into boiling water for a very short period of time. This step not only makes it easier to remove the skins but also prevents discoloration without the need for an acidic water bath treatment. To blanch and skin your peaches:
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Wash the peaches.
- Cut the peaches in half and twist the halves apart. Discard the pits.
- Drop the pitted peach halves into the boiling water for 10 seconds.
- Drain the blanched peach halves in a colander.
- Once the fruit has cooled enough to handle, rub or peel off the skins.
Optional: scrape off the dark areas where the pits were with a small spoon. If desired, cut the peeled halves into slices.
Cook the Peaches in Syrup, Water, or Juice
Briefly cooking your peaches in a sweet or flavored liquid will help keep the fruit tasty and attractive. Although peaches are most often canned in a simple sugar syrup, it is quite safe to can them in juice or even plain water. The canning liquid is a flavoring element, not a safety consideration. If using juice, I recommend white grape juice because of its relatively neutral color and flavor. To cook your peaches:
- Bring the syrup, juice or water to a boil.
- Add the peeled peaches and simmer them for 2 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat.
Fill the Canning Jars
You can use any type of canning jar for your peaches, and they can be any size you prefer. Your canning jars do not need to be sterilized for canning peaches, but they do need to be clean and crack or chip-free. To fill the canning jars:
- Heat the jars by filling them with very hot water. Empty them just before filling them with fruit. This will prevent the jars from cracking when they are filled with hot fruit and cooking liquid.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peaches from the liquid they were simmering in. Fill the jars with the fruit, leaving 3/4-inch headspace between the top of the peaches and the rims of the jars. Pack the fruit in quite tightly to reduce fruit float.
- Ladle the hot liquid that the peaches simmered in over the fruit, leaving 1/2-inch headspace in each jar.
- Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp paper or cloth towel (any food on a jar rim could prevent a good seal).
- Secure the canning lids.
Process the Jars
Water bath canning is the simplest way to make your canned peaches shelf stable, meaning that they will remain safe to eat for a long period of time. To process your peaches, place them in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes for pint jars, 25 minutes for quarts. Adjust the canning time for your altitude if necessary.