Home-canned peach pie filling--like summer sunshine in a bottle!! Think of peach pie or cobbler in February, when we're all wondering if the sun will ever shine again here in the Pacific Northwest. In my area, there is still a plentiful supply of late-summer peaches. O Henry peaches are one of my favorites for their robust flavor and rich color, but others prefer a firmer peach like an Elberta for use in peach pie filling. Every area has its favorites. But one thing is for sure--regardless of what variety you use, you'll be glad you have it!
Yields 7 quarts
- 6 quarts peaches, peeled and sliced
- 3/4 c. lemon juice
- 6 c. sugar
- 4 c. Water
- 3 c. Ultra Gel®
- 2 t. cinnamon (optional)
- Peel and slice peaches.
- Add the lemon juice.
- Working in batches, heat the peaches until steaming, stirring once. (I used a covered 2-quart casserole dish and heated on full power for 2 minutes, stirred then another 2 minutes. Your microwave may need different timing according to its wattage and the amount of peaches heated at a time)
- Transfer the peaches and any juice that accumulated to a slow cooker or roaster on the "keep warm" setting until needed. NOTE: If the peaches are ripe, they will heat very quickly. Be careful not to overcook, but the peaches need to be hot when added to the sauce in order to process correctly.
- Combine sugar, Ultra Gel® and cinnamon in a bowl.
- Bring water to a boil in a large, heavy pan (at least 8 quarts)
- Add sugar mixture and stir in. This will make a very thick paste that might look like it has some lumps in it. Don't worry--it will be fine.
- Add the peaches The extra juice from the peaches will smooth out the thickened juices
- Bring back to a boil and immediately pack the pie filling into clean jars, leaving 1" headspace
- Process in a water bath canner for 30 minutes.
The USDA recommends blanching or heating the peaches before adding them to the other filling ingredients to ensure the pie filling (which is very thick) processes all the way through. In general, blanching involves plunging fresh fruits or vegetables into boiling water for a short period of time in order to raise the temperature quickly. For purposes of home-canned pie filling, it is critical for every part of the jar of filling to achieve the appropriate temperatures to inactivate the enzymes and kill the microorganisms that cause food spoilage. Some recipes suggest blanching by dipping the peeled and sliced peaches in boiling water and that is certainly effective. But you lose all that flavorful juice and that just hurts my heart! Microwave blanching (heating) in a covered container should achieve the same goal if done properly and have the advantage of retaining the juices.
To accomplish this, put the peeled and sliced peaches in a heavy glass bowl (covered by a plate) or covered casserole dish. Sprinkle with the lemon juice and microwave for two minutes (be sure to protect against steam burns by using oven mitts). Stir carefully to make sure the peaches in the center are getting equal heat, and continue to microwave for another two minutes. Repeat as necessary. It only takes a batch or two to figure out a system that works. When adequately cooked, a fork should pierce the peaches easily but they need not be limp They should, however, be steamy and too hot to handle! If you need multiple batches of heated peaches, you can slide them into a slow cooker on the "keep warm" setting until you have enough for the batch.
Pie filling is a thickened product, which means that heat will be slower to penetrate than if free water is available. In order to achieve a pie filling that will keep for the long term, it's really important to make sure all the pieces of the pie filling are at boiling temperatures when the bottles are packed. I know, we all hate to overcook those beautiful peaches, so its best to be able to work fast and get the peaches peeled and heated as quickly as possible.
Stir the sugar and Ultra Gel together, then add the water and stir until smooth in a heavy pan large enough for 7 quarts of pie filling. Bring to a boil, then add the pre-cooked peach slices and any liquid that has accumulated and carefully spoon the filling into prepared quart jars. Process thirty minutes (sea level - make appropriate adjustments for your altitude) in a water bath canner.
Peach Pie Filling is a delightful "end of summer" treat that will give back during the cold winter ahead (for those of us who have cold winters. . .)
Just a note: A quart of home-canned pie filling isn't enough for a deep dish pie. It is adequate for a standard pie (see photos of standard pie plates). If you want a larger pie, you might need to use a quart and a half of filling, or possibly add some blueberries.