Small Batch Sweet Cherry and Peach Preserves + Canning Instructions

I just got back from spending a week with my family, but it wasn't until we were half way back to Missouri that I realized that I had screwed up. I didn't stop by my favorite produce stand to pick up my summer supply of peaches. That meant going an entire year without any because, while Wisconsin produces a lot of great things, peaches just aren't one of them. Those hard as a rock things they sell in the grocery store (you know the ones I'm talking about, don't you?) The ones that never seem to soften up and don't even smell like peaches. Those are not peaches, at least, not the kind I grew up with.

Real peaches are the ones so filled up with juice they burst the second your teeth pierce the flesh, leaving you with a trail of juice running down your chin. Those are the peaches I grew up with, but sadly those are not the peaches I find these days. They seem to be a thing of the past.

I've always felt that it's not officially summer until I've had my first peach, so I spent the drive back to Wisconsin completely dejected. Summer was officially over before it ever really got started. There would be no peach pies, crisps, or cobblers in my future. No jellies, butters, or preserves to get me through the long cold Wisconsin winter.

Summer was dead to me.

Well, at least until I went to the grocery store hungry (something I keep telling myself I shouldn't do, but at least it worked in my favor this time.) I was wandering through the produce section looking for dinner ingredients when I stumbled across case on top of case of canning peaches. I'm ashamed now to admit I walked right on by them (didn't I mention the fact that we don't get good peaches in Wisconsin?)

Then it hit me— I smelled peaches!

I immediately turned the cart around (practically gunning down little old ladies right and left in my effort to get there fast enough) and I picked up a case of some of the best smelling peaching I've seen in years. Then three days later I went back for more, because lets be honest, you can never have too many peaches.

I'm going to give you fair warning, you're about to be inundated with peach recipes, starting with these glorious sweet cherry and peach preserves that I saw on Food in Jars

Sweet Cherry and Peach Preserves

Sweet Cherry and Peach Preserves
makes 3 half pints

Ingredients

1½ pounds yellow peaches
¾ pounds sweet cherries (see notes)
1¼ cups granulated white sugar 

Directions

  • Bring a sauce pan of water to a boil. Working in small batches, blanch the peaches for 30 seconds, before transferring them to an ice bath. Once the peaches have cooled slightly the skins should easily peel off.
  • Remove the pits from the cherries. You can pull them apart with your hands, or use a chopstick to help force the pit out.
  • In a non-reactive sauce pan add sugar, peaches, and cherries. Stir well to combine, then bring the contents to a boil over high heat.

Make sure to stir the pot frequently taking care to scrape the bottom, especially during the later portion of the cooking process where the fruit tends to burn more easily.

  • While the fruit is cooking sterilize your jars and other canning supplies. Bring a large pot of water to boil.
  • Allow the fruit to reduce by roughly ⅓ (this took about 30 minutes, but could take longer.) Turn the heat off once the sauce has thickened.
  • Fill sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace at the top. Carefully wipe the rims, add lid and ring, then process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Once the timer goes off, leave the jars in the water for an additional 5 minutes to help prevent the preserves from siphoning.
  • Carefully remove jars and set on a dishtowel. Never set hot jars directly on the counter, the rapid temperature change can cause them to break.
  • Allow the jars to cool completely before testing the seal. Any unsealed jars should be reprocessed or refrigerated immediately.

Notes

When selecting peaches for canning I prefer the freestone variety because the flesh of the peach doesn't cling to the pit. They're a lot less work, which really makes a difference if you plan on processing a ton of peaches. For small batches, such as this recipe, clingstone peaches will work just fine.

I used sweet cherries because it's what I had on hand (thanks to my husband's grandma who gave me a huge bag while we were on vacation,) but sour cherries will work just as well.

Give this recipe your own twist! Try adding a vanilla bean, ground cardamom, ginger, or galangal.

6 Surprising Items I'm Removing From My Pantry for October #Unprocessed

 

It's official, today is the start of October #Unprocessed and I'll be doing my best to keep unprocessed food off my plate for the entire month. To kick off the challenge I went through every item in my pantry and made a list of foods that didn't pass the kitchen test (if you're unfamiliar with the kitchen test you can read all about it in my previous post.) Some of my findings were pretty surprising, it turns out many of my favorite pantry staples are processed foods. This means I'll need to either stop eating them, find alternate brands, or learn to make them myself. Below I've listed 6 of these items and highlighted their reasons for failing the kitchen test. 

1. Pet Evaporated Milk

Ingredients: Milk, Contains 0.5% or Less of: Dipotassium PhosphateCarrageenan, Vitamin D3.

2. Red Gold Tomatoes

Ingredients: Tomatoes, Tomato Juice, Salt, Citric Acid, Calcium Chloride

3. S & W Beans 

Ingredients: Prepared Navy Beans, Water, SaltSugar, Dehydrated Onion, Calcium Chloride, Calcium Disodium Edta.

4. San Marcos Chilies in Adobo

Ingredients: Chilpotle Peppers, Tomato Puree, Onions, Vinegar, Canola OilSugarSalt, Paprika and Garlic.

5. Shurfine Cultured Sour Cream

Ingredients: Grade A MilkCream, Less than 2% : Nonfat MilkFood Starch Modified, Guar Gum, Sodium Phosphate, Locust Bean Gum, Sodium Citrate, CarrageenanDextrose, Cultures, Enzymes, Potassium Sorbate.

6. Snow's Chopped Clams

Ingredients: Clams in their Natural Juices, Water, SaltSugar, Sodium Tripolyphosphate (to Retain Natural Juices), Calcium Disodium EDTA (to Protect Color)

Most shocking discovery on my list

I decided to read about the ingredients I was unfamiliar with (mostly food preservatives) and discovered that Calcium Chloride (CaCl2) is used to remove ice from the roads and Dipotassium Phosphate (K2HPO4) can be found in antifreeze. These aren't the types of ingredients I want to be consuming, even if the FDA classifies them as generally recognized as safe (GRAS). One of my new goals for the month is to become more familiar with the types of preservatives I've been consuming and how they affect my health.

How to take part in October #Unprocessed

If you're interested in joining me in October #Unprocessed head over to Eating Rules and take the pledge. As a bonus for signing up you'll be sent an assortment of printable coupons from Bob's Red Mill to help you stock your pantry with unprocessed foods.

Vanilla Bean Peach Butter

I know I say this every year, but where in the world has summer gone? It seems like yesterday I was spending my days working on my tan, or what passes for a tan in Wisconsin, while my son spent his day swimming in his wading pool. Those days are behind me for now, fall has made an early appearance and the past few weeks have been down right chilly for the tail end of summer. As much as I'm sad to see my lazy days outside come to an end, I do look forward to the flavors that fall brings. I love all things pumpkin and spice, but I'm not quite ready to embrace them yet. I still have several pounds of juicy summer peaches to put up, so I've been taking advantage of the cooler weather to make fruit butter. Several weeks ago I made a small batch of No Fuss Crock-Pot Apricot Butter. It turned out so well that I've decided that my remaining peaches are destined to become fruit butter as well. I've put up about 6 pints over the last few weeks which means this winter I can pull out a jar and enjoy a little taste of summer when things are looking cold and dreary. With our high temperatures hovering in the low 50s I have a feeling it's going to be a long cold winter this year. I'm going to need all the reminders of summer that I can get! 

PeachButter.jpg

Peach Butter
makes 5 half pints

Ingredients

5lbs peaches
1 vanilla bean
1 cup white sugar 

Equipment

immersion blender (optional)
water-bath canner or stock pot with lifter
7 half pint canning jars with lids and rings
jar grabber
magnetic lid lifter
funnel
butter knife
ladle
clean dish towels and cloths 

Directions

  • Remove the skins from the peaches. Boil a large pot of water, add peaches, and blanch for 1 minute, or until skins start to crack. Depending on the size of your pot you may need to work in batches. 
  • Transfer blanched peaches to cold water and once cool the skins should easily peel off. Remove pits and skins, then place in crock pot. 
  • Open vanilla bean pod with a knife and scrape the insides into the crockpot. Once insides are removed, toss the entire pod in with the peaches.
  • Cook on low for 8 - 10 hours. Make sure to leave the lid off to allow the steam to escape. 
  • After 8 hours the contents of the crock pot should have reduced roughly in half, if they have not you can continue to cook the peaches down until they have reached the desired consistency. 
  • Remove vanilla bean pod, add sugar, then stir until well incorporated.
  • Fill hot canning jars and process using the water bath canning directions below.

Processing times for this recipe

are 15 minutes for elevations of 0-1,000 ft and 20 minutes for elevations of 1,001-6,000 ft. These times are for quarter-pints, half-pints and pints only.

  • Before canning sterilize your canning jars, rings, potato masher, and any other equipment that will come into contact with the apricot butter. You can do this easily by putting everything in the dishwasher and running it. Just don't put your equipment in with dirty dishes.
  • While your jars are sterilizing fill your stock pot with water and let it boil. It takes awhile for a large pot of water to boil, so keep this in mind. You don't want to fill your jars before your water is ready.
  • Once you're ready to fill your jars, place a sauce pan on the stove. Add your canning lids and fill pan with several inches of water. Bring the water to a simmer and allow the sealing wax on the lids to soften for several minutes.
  • Fill sterilized jars with hot apricot butter leaving 1/2 inch head space at the top. Remove air bubbles with a knife, wipe the rims with a clean damp rag, place lids on top and fasten ring until finger tight.
  • Place sealed jars on a rack in the canner or stock pot. Make sure jars are covered with water and that the waterline is about an inch over the top of the jars, then cover pot with lid.

You do not want the jars coming into contact with the bottom of the canner or stock pot because they will bounce around and likely break.

  • Process half pints and pints for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Time starts once the water has come to a complete boil again. You may need to add boiling water to keep the water level up as the jars are processing.

 

  • Remove jars from canner, set on a clean dish towel, and let them rest for several hours until cool. You should hear a popping sound as the lids seal. 
  • To check the seals of your jars press the center gently with your finger. If it moves up and down the jar is not sealed. You can either reprocess using a new lid never reuse an old lid or once the jar is cool, eat the apricot butter. You know you want to and you deserve the treat after such hard work!
  • Label with detailed contents and date, then store in a cool, dark, and dry place.

Other Notes

If you aren't happy with the texture of your butter try using an immersion blender to create a smoother texture. I don't mind the chunky texture so I generally skip the blender.