Preserving can be a fairly complicated skill, but when it comes to simple things like peaches and tomatoes, it is easy, fairly fast, and a lot more healthy. You can use little to no sugar (use pineapple juice for your syrup - it looks a little funky but works, I have tried it) and you don't have to worry about the BPA in store-bought cans of peaches. Plus, I use local peaches, I know the farmer that I am supporting and it makes them taste that much better!
There are a few ways to do this, you can peel your peaches with a knife, or you can immerse them in boiling water for about 60 seconds, plunge into an ice bath and the skins (usually) slip right off. My grandmother taught me the boiling water method, peeling with a knife was a forbidden no-no. It might kill her to think that I would ever reach for a knife. However, there are always a few whose skins don't slip and then you have to grab the knife (sorry Grandma) to finish the job. They are prettier when you boil and slip the skins, there are no knife marks and you don't waste fruit. My mother-in-law was a knife peeler (two worlds colliding when I entered the scene - think planets crashing type explosion and you start to get an idea of the mass chaos that I brought to that family), but that is what worked for her and if that's what you do - that's peachy - just don't tell my grandma!
Puttin' Up Peaches
Make a light syrup: (you may have to make several batches depending on how many peaches you are doing, I usually double the batch to start and then make a second double batch)
5 cups water
2 cups sugar
In a large stock pot, add water and sugar and heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Keep warm.
***Sterilize jars, lids, rings, and all canning supplies. To do this immerse in boiling water for 5 minutes. With my jars, I run them through the dishwasher on a sterilize cycle and keep them warm until I am able to use them, but you can boil the jars too, just be careful not to break them. Also make sure that everything in the kitchen is clean - countertops and sink especially. I Clorox my sink before I start and clean the countertops and cutting boards.
Peaches - I did two full orchard boxes (about 40 pounds) this year which made 30 quarts of quartered fruit (I quarter them so I can get more in the jars - I have limited storage space!) Do as many as you like.
Citric Acid or Fruit Fresh to help keep the color of the peaches
Light Syrup (above)
You will need a sink full of ice water and a large pot of boiling water to peel the peaches.
Peel the peaches, either by hand or by immersing them in the boiling water for about 60 seconds and then moving the peaches to the ice water. You will want to work in small batches about 8 peaches at a time.
Half the peaches, remove pit and slip off skins. Cut out any bruising and quarter the peaches (or you can leave them halved and my Grandmother will love you). Stack the peach pieces carefully in warm sterilized jars, add a dash of citric acid to each jar to preserve color, and fill jars with syrup leaving about 1/2-inch of space at the top of the jar. Remove the air bubbles as best as you can. Wipe rim with a clean cloth, put on lid and ring and set aside until you have enough jars to process a batch.
Fill your water canner with water, and set on stove top at high. When boiling, immerse quart jars of peaches and process for 25 minutes. Remove from water bath and set on a clean towel. The lids will seal as they cool. Let cool overnight and check lids to make sure they sealed. Remove rings, wash bottles and rings with warm soapy water, dry, replace clean rings, and label.