An hour or so before my husband and I set up our kitchen for the annual peach canning-palooza, the house becomes a food preservation command center. We secure the deepest stock pots and Dutch ovens to hold boiling water and syrup; we lug bags of firm ripe fruit into the kitchen sink, prepare the thin syrup, and start boiling and peeling the plump fruit. My husband loves it. I do not. In fact, I’m decidedly un-peachy on canning days. I grouse about the mess; I groan about the heat; I nag about not making the fruit too sweet. It is me, rotten to the core.
My genial husband soldiers on and tunes me out. He won’t get drawn into battle. He knows the peaches will wear me down—their fragrance as they simmer in the sugar-honey bath, their blushing crimson flesh, their neat, overlapping layers in the jars. Thirty minutes after we start, I’m on board and fussing with each peach half as it slides into the jar. When it’s full I top it off with a bit of syrup, run a knife down the sides to release pockets of air, and then stand back to admire the final product before gently turning the lid closed. It’s almost as good as tucking your child into bed, all snug and warm and sweet smelling. The peaches have won. They’ve turned me to putty.
Today we canned outside beneath a red tarp to keep me from complaining about the ungodly mess inside the house. A real operation, I must say. Notice my canning-loving husband in the background with golf clubs. When there’s a break in the action, hitting a few golf balls into the fields behind our home is always the perfect way to kill time.
The grill’s side burners heated the boiling water we used to dunk the peaches before peeling and cooked the syrup and peaches before packing off to a warm water bath. My husband tweaked a few old and new syrup recipes because he likes a sugar-honey mix. He doubled the below recipe because we had three baskets to “put up,” as the saying goes. He may tune me out before we start, but he does cooperate during syrup prep and always accommodates me with a light variety. It’s all personal preference, but the medium and heavy syrups seem way too sweet for me. Come January, I want to taste as much fresh peach flavor as I can get, and the light syrup mix fits the bill.
Light Canning Syrup
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup honey
5 1/4 cups water
Combine all the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a light boil. Immerse peaches in the syrup and cook for five minutes. Pack in jars, leaving 1/2-inch head space, and then process in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes.
Note: Consult a reliable canning reference for other syrup recipes and for processing information to guarantee food safety guidelines.