Peach Preserves

There is a peach orchard in North Texas where there are acres and acres of trees.  For the past few summers the kids have been going there to pick bushels and bushels of peaches for our peach preserves and peach cobbler.  I love seeing the kids climb up into the trees to get the best peaches, the ones that most people can’t reach.

While the heat is stifling in Texas in the hot summer months, the kids don’t seem to mind as they run all over the orchard in search of the perfect, unblemished peaches, not too ripe, not too firm, just right.   I love to see the green stems still attached to the peach when you pull them off the tree.

Peaches are a must in the South and we have our favorites.  Many will talk about Georgia peaches but our favorite are peaches from Fredricksburg, Texas.  This peach orchard in North Texas rivals the Fredricksburg peaches as it is not too far from our family farm and nothing beats picking your own.  The kids know there is a reward to be gained at the end of the day – this peach orchard has homemade peach ice cream that you can buy to eat while you sit at a picnic table under huge shade trees to taste a sampling of their fresh peaches.  YUM!

After loading up our boxes and boxes of peaches, we return home and call in reinforcements.  Mom, Lisa, and Sara man their stations and get these peaches canned while the kids run in and out of the kitchen inspecting and tasting the fruits of our labor while the juicy peaches drip down their arms.   Our first step is to prepare the jars.  The jars and lids are washed in the dishwasher so they are sterilized.   We heat the jars and lids in a sauce pot of simmering water (180 degrees) and we leave them in the hot water until we are ready to fill each jar.

The peaches are cut  into chunks to fill Mom’s 8 cup plastic measuring cup.  This measuring cup is the same one that she used when we were growing up so it evokes special memories when we use it.  It doesn’t matter which house we use to make the preserves, the fruit must be measured in this measuring cup…it’s a tradition!  Mom is the best at cutting the peaches.  Her pieces are uniform in shape and size.

Ingredients:

8 cups peeled, sliced, pitted peaches (about 8 pounds)
4 tablespoons lemon juice
10 cups sugar
2 packages of powdered pectin

Combine peaches, powdered pectin, and lemon juice into a large pot.  Bring to a boil while stirring gently.  Add sugar and cook until dissolved.

Return to a rolling boil and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.   Skim foam if necessary.  Ladle preserves into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space at the top.  Wipe rim and threads of jar with a clean, damp cloth.

Place the two-piece lids onto the jars and twist, but do not twist them tightly – just fingertip tight.  Set each jar into the elevated rack of the boiling water canner.

Water in canner should be simmering (180 degrees).  After you have loaded the rack, lower the rack into the canner.  The water level must cover the tops of the jars by 1 to 2 inches.  Add more boiling water if necessary.   Put lid on your canner and bring water to a boil.  Start counting processing time after the water reaches a rolling boil.   The preserves will need to process for 10 minutes in the boiling water canner.

When processing time is complete, turn off heat and remove canner lid.  Let canner cool 5 minutes before removing jars.  Remove jars from canner and place them on a dry towel to cool for 12 to 24 hours.   After jars have cooled, check lids for a good seal by pressing on the center of each lid.
This recipe will make about 18 half pints of preserves.

Enjoy!

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