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I’m working at my grandparents’ peach stand in Holmes County, OH, for the summer, so why not talk about peaches? I was recently asked if I had ever canned peaches without using sugar, and I had to say no. We actually eat more frozen peaches than canned peaches, and the frozen ones we’ve done without sugar. However, I’d never tried canning peaches without sugar, so I mentioned the idea to my aunt (with whom I am staying for the summer), and she kindly made a jar of peaches with no sugar for me to try when she canned the rest of her peaches. It turned out just fine! So the very simple answer to the question I was asked is that yes, it is possible to can peaches using only water – no sugar involved. Please note that I have not tested how these peaches will hold up over time. Taking a suggestion from some friends, my mom just canned some peaches using water and a pinch of pure stevia extract powder in each jar (and a little Fruit Fresh – citric acid – too, I hope). I’ll have to see how those turn out and update you guys after the end of the winter! If you’ve ever tried canning peaches with no added sugar, comment below and tell us how you did it. I’m sure there are lots of people who would love to benefit from your experience.
Update as of 3/9/16 – we’ve been eating the canned peaches that my mom did last summer, and they’re awesome! They held up just fine without the sugar. Fruit Fresh is important to keep them a good color, and if you’re canning, can the peaches when they’re still a little bit firm. Not hard as rocks, just firm. Start with a good peach and you’ll end up with a good peach! Scroll on down in this post for some of my recommendations.
So there’s your canned-peaches-with-no-sugar post, but that’s not very long, so I’m going to give you some tips about peaches in general. Since I’m an expert and all that. I sell these things every day, 6 days a week, and this is the 5th summer I’ve done this. I’ve eaten a lot of peaches in my time.
Tip #1: never store a ripening or firm peach in a refrigerator. This will make it mealy and mushy and it won’t ripen properly (this is why peaches from grocery stores often don’t amount to much). Lay peaches out on your counter to fully ripen, then put them in your refrigerator if you haven’t eaten them yet.
Hint: a great way to tell when a peach is ripe is to see what color it is by the stem. A ripe peach is a nice golden color, while an unripe peach will have a green tinge.
Tip #2: you can can/freeze practically any good peach. Of course, there are some varieties that have superior color and hold up better than others, but as a general rule, any mid-season peach that has been properly cared for can be used for pretty much anything: canning, freezing, pies, jam, and fresh eating. A good peach is versatile!
My favorite varieties are any from the Prince collection: Fire Prince, Scarlet Prince, July Prince, Sun Prince, etc. They have awesome peachy flavor and plenty of sweetness and juice.
If I had to pick one…well, I would pick the Scarlet Prince. God sure did a good job on that one.
Tip #3: if you’re canning, do the peaches when they’re still a little firm. If you’re freezing, let them get plenty ripe.
Tip #4: when freezing, add a little citric acid of some sort to help prevent your peaches from turning brown (do this when canning as well; Fruit Fresh works well). Also, leave the sliced peaches exposed to air for as little time as possible and put them into the freezer immediately.
Tip #5: when canning, only cold pack the peaches for about 6-8 minutes (maybe even only 5 minutes if you wait for the water to come to a complete, rolling boil), then take the jars out of the water and invert to aid sealing. Do NOT cook the snot out of them for 15-20 minutes. If you find that your jars won’t seal, increase the time by a little bit. Find your happy medium that will allow your jars to seal while still leaving you with firm peaches, and remember that less is usually more.
Tip #6: don’t be afraid to try new varieties, and be sure to mark your jar lids so you remember what variety you used for future reference!