Just shortly after I returned from Ireland a friend let me in on a little secret: There were some excellent blueberries to be had in town and if I was lucky the person selling them may just have some plump Georgia pecans too. Unfortunately by the time I managed to get out the door the pecans were all gone, but I lucked out and in addition to my blueberries I was able to bring home a bushel of over-ripe Georgia peaches for half off. Never one to pass up a deal, especially on peaches, I happily handed over my hard earned money and spent the next few days finding creative ways to preserve them.
And then I ran out of steam... What was I thinking buying 48 pounds of peaches?
After making two cases of pie filling in a variety of flavors and playing around with a new flavor of peach applesauce I decided to cut my creative endeavors short. Everything I had left got sliced up and preserved with a vanilla bean infused syrup, which just may be one of the simplest ways to preserve peaches.
Vanilla Bean Infused Peaches
makes 9 pints
6½ cups water
¾ cup sugar
4½ vanilla beans, cut in half and sliced down the center (see notes)
11 pounds yellow peaches
Lots of ice, to help with peeling
- Before beginning, sterilize your jars and rings in the dishwasher. As per the new canning guidelines lids no longer need to be sterilized if they'll be in the water bath for more than 10 minutes.
- Prepare a light syrup made of water and sugar in a large saucepan, bring the mixture to a boil, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the vanilla beans to the hot syrup, turn off the heat, and allow the vanilla beans to infuse while you peel your peaches.
- Dip the peaches in a large pot of boiling water for 30 - 60 seconds, or until the skins start to loosen. Quickly drop the peaches in a bowl of ice water and slip the skins off. Cut the peaches in half, remove the pit, then slice into equal-sized pieces.
- Add the peach slices to the sugar syrup and bring to a boil. Fill your sterilized jars with fruit and a slice of vanilla bean. Once the jars are full add syrup, making sure to leave ½ inch headspace at the top of the jar.
- Tap the jars gently to remove any air bubbles that may have become trapped, wipe the rims of the jars to remove any access syrup, then add a new canning lid. Make sure to tighten the ring securely before placing the jars in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes (pint jars) or 25 minutes (quart jars.)
- Remove the jars from the water bath and set them on a dish towel to cool. After the jars have cooled completely check the seals and refrigerate any jars that do not have a good seal.
I have occasionally run out of syrup when canning peaches, but it's easy to make more as needed without making up a full batch of syrup. 1 cup of water, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and ½ a vanilla bean is usually enough to fill the last jar should you run out. Any extra syrup can be refrigerated and used later, as long as you remember to bring the refrigerated syrup to a full boil.
If you want to put up a large amount of peaches I suggest trying to find the freestone variety, the pits practically fall out when you cut the peaches in half which saves a surprising amount of time.