I have taken five or six classes with Stephanie McClenny, owner of Confituras, and credit her in part for fostering my obsession with canning. Having canned and pickled just about everything I can think of and made jars upon jars of jam, I figured I had it down. When Stephanie asked me to help her with her peach canning class last weekend, I happily agreed; but having already canned peaches a couple of times, I didn’t think I had a lot to learn. Wrong.
When Lightsey Farms brought the first of their peaches to the farmer’s market, I bought about half a bushel, and proceeded to can them in light syrup with Bourbon and Brandy (separately.) The peaches were clingstone, and hard to deal with, resulting in uneven pieces, lots of hard work and not a very attractive jar of fruit. Not to mention, that dealing with them was not very fun.
In Stephanie’s class, I learned that as the peach season progresses, the peaches become freestone, and thus are easier to halve and remove the pit. This is a lesson I will not forget, as the freestone peaches are so much easier and more pleasant to deal with. I also learned that peaches plump up, when allowed to lightly simmer in syrup for a while, which results in less “fruit float” in the jars.
The bigger lesson, however, is what sets Stephanie and Confituras apart from the rest, and why she continues to win Good Food Awards, and sell out wherever her products appear. She understands that we eat with our eyes first, and that appearance is important. She taught us to place the peaches into the jars such that the end result is equally as beautiful as it is delicious. Yes it a bit more time consuming, than dumping peach halves into a jar, but the visual is stunning, and well worth the time.
My canned peaches before Stephanie’s class:
My canned peaches after Stephanie’s class:
Even if you are a seasoned canner or preserver, I highly recommend taking a class from Stephanie. She has lots more to offer than just recipes and procedure.