The Ultimate Guide to Canning--
Canning makes me feel as if I have reached some sort of "Mormon-wife" standard that is otherwise unattainable/undesirable to me. Plus I love the taste of home-canned fruit. So much better than the store. SO MUCH!
This entry is bound to catapult my blog into internet stardom, since I am sure the world wants to know how I can peaches and pears. Fascinating stuff here.
Actually this entry is so I can remember how to do it again next year, because I have this habit of purging my brain of all nonessential information. Last year I canned quite a few bottles of pears and peaches, but this year I could not even remember how to peel and pit a pear. Honestly. You'd think I could remember how to do something that I did about 150 times over and over. Oh well, so much for that habit idea that doing it three times makes it unforgettable.
This pear has a butt. Haha. What's canning without a little "that's the best pair (yuck yuck) I've ever seen."
So onto the canning process-o.
1. Buy pears/peaches.
Pears: Buy pears green and let them ripen in the box. Place a blanket/sheet/tarp/whatever over the pears and they will ripen pretty evenly. This year I bought 2 and 1/2 bushels of pears, which equaled 5 boxes of pears. They were selling for $15/half bushel. It took about 4-5 days for the pears to ripen. They should have a little give and be yellowish. My pears were Bartlett pears.
Peaches: My peaches were Gleasons Early Elberta and I (as in my mother and father-in-law) got an awesome price: $10 a half bushel. This year peaches are selling for $18-22 a half bushel. Holy smokes! They were mostly ready by the day after I bought them. By mostly I mean about 10 out of the bunch were not ripe enough to peel.
2. Gather canning equipment: Jars, lids, canner (I use one of those Granite-ware 9-jar ones), bottle picker-upper (yeah, I don't know the technical name), large bowl. Make sure your jars are clean. Because last time I checked, spider web peaches were not yummy.
3. Peel and pit the fruit. Ahh this is the most exciting step. I like to put in some good music, or a book on tape, and set to work.
Pears: I used a potato peeler, and it was faster than a knife. After I peeled it though I had to cut it in half (with a knife, not a potato peeler) and used a melon baller to get out the core/pit/stringy thing that tastes gross in the middle of a pear. The melon baller was a good tool to use. Remind me to buy one so I don't have to use my mom's next year. I also sliced the pear halves in half again. It makes life easier with small children.
Peaches: Blanch your peaches! Blanch them I say! Martha says you should lightly score an x in the bottom of each peach and some websites say you have to boil them for long periods of time. Whatever. Also some websites claim that you lose nutritional value by blanching. Well it looks like in my 10 minutes of research that the studies have been on vegetables, and if I didn't blanch my peaches I would probably hack most of the peach off in an attempt to peel it. So, I'm sticking with my blanching method which is: Boil a large pot of water. Use a slotted spoon to drop the peaches in (careful, careful). Count to ten. Pull them out. Viola! Your peach will peel itself. I don't even put them in a bucket of icy water, (EDITED TWO YEARS LATER: Look, don't be an idiot. Follow the directions and put them in the icy water or you WILL BE SORRY.) and hey they work fine. Although I'm sure that's bad too. Now all you have to do is be careful that small pieces of the pit do not become lodged under you nail while using your (freshly washed) hands to pit the peach. I also sliced my peaches to save fork action later.
Tip for next year: Blanching might be easier if you put a colander full of peaches into the boiling water rather than dropping them in and removing them one at a time.
4. Drop into jars, kind of pushing down (not mashing) to fill jar. Fill to just under the rim of where the lid screws on. I do this as I peel (unless my mom has been coerced into helping me and we assembly line it). Since my canner holds 9 jars I do 9 jars at a time. Brilliant, I know.
5. Add a scant 1/4 cup of sugar to each jar. This is a very very light syrup. I hate heavy syrups.
6. Add water up to the rim of where the lid screws on. I boil my water, since that's what my mom does. My mother-in-law, who also cans delicious sanitary jars of fruit does not boil her water, she uses hot tap water and then light shakes/swirls the jar to mix the sugar (see step 8 before attempting this). With boiling water I don't swirl my jars. Either way works fine. **Disclaimer-- I don't have a food handler's permit. I don't know if using boiling water or not will kill germs or kill you or cause some sort of world problems. My training has been at the hands of my capable mother and mother-in-law who have years of canning experience between them. If you feel wary about this follow some sort of highly researched and technical instructions from somewhere else.
7. Make sure canner is filled with water. I fill mine to the first rim, because adding jars is going to make the water go higher. (Wow, you can tell I am not into scientific terms here. If this were my husband writing this he would talk about volume and displacement and throw in some sort of equation.) I turn the stove on about now because it takes for-ev-er for the water to heat up.
8. Wash rims of jars to get the sugar off and add lids (Obviously you would do this before you swirled/shook your jars if using tap water). I also boil my lids, because that's what my mom did/does. Really the only reason I boil my lids is because I got a canning kit for my birthday and it had a hand dandy lid-magnetic-thing that I use to pull the lids from the boiling water. For some reason, using this tool gives me joy. If I didn't have this tool I wouldn't boil my lids. Shirley (mother-in-law) does not boil lids and they work fine. Twist the ring on now.
9. Place jars carefully into the canner. Most granite-ware canners come with a jar holder to keep the bottles in place. I haven't tried canning without one, so I would recommend you use it. Lower jars into water. Make sure the water completely covers the tops of the jars, by like 1-2 inches. Now put the lid on. (Make sure stove is on from step 7). Now you have to wait for the water to boil. Like a good boil, not just some wimpy half bubbles coming up once in awhile, a real boil. Now you can start your timer for processing the jars, which seals the lids on.
I processed both my pears and peaches for 30 minutes. Now, my mother-in-law, who doesn't boil the water she puts in the jars, processes them for 40 minutes. Her method is raw pack. My mom's is hot pack (kind of). And it looks like you have to process raw pack longer than hot pack. But it all has to do with altitude and honestly, it's an inexact science. (Look at the chart. Do you really think they canned peaches at 1,000 feet and then moved up to 1,001 feet just to see if the lids didn't seal and someone died from food poisoning?) So anyway. . . I should probably do some more research. But really I'm too lazy, so here's a link for you to do your own research: The USDA Guide to Canning
10. Use your bottle picker-upper and lift the jars out (after the timer goes off). Allow them to cool and sit on a flat surface overnight. The popping sounds are your lids sealing. What a fun time.
Other facinating facts:
It took from 5-7 peaches to fill a jar.
One bushel of peaches yielded 27 quart jars. (and I had extra peaches to eat for a few days after too)
One bushel of pears yielded 21 quart jars. I canned 2 and 1/4 bushels and made pear honey with the other 1/4 bushel.
This is my absolute favorite jam in the whole wide world.
Peel and mash pears with potato masher (or I use a pastry cutter)
4 c. of mashed pears (This was about 20 pears for me this year)
1 can of pineapple (I would drain the juice, but if you don't mind runny jam, then don't)
3 1/2 c. of sugar (really just add it to taste)
2 Tbs of lemon juice
Bring to boil and let simmer for 20-25 min. Then add 1 tsp. vanilla.
Process for 10 min. (My mom just turned her jars upside down and they sealed, but I processed mine)
If you made it through this post, congratulations. You are a nice person. Now would you mind leaving me a comment? :)
Added in Jan 2011,
1 1/2 - 2 c. grapes
1/2 c. sugar
Stem grapes, add to jar, add sugar, add hot tap water until filled to the bottom rim. Process for 25 minutes. Viola! My white grape juice is not as flavorful as purple, but still okay.