Trisha Giles keeps summer by the jar.
Every June and July, she turns her Fair Oaks kitchen into a canning center, peeling and packing hundreds of jars of fresh fruit.
"It's healthy and it's fun," said Giles, who learned canning from her mother- in-law about 35 years ago. "Then, you have them all year long."
This month, Giles was elbow deep in freestone peaches from Hanford. Her friend had recommended a family-owned fruit stand near the Kings County town. Giles brought back 50 pounds of peaches, plus apricots and nectarines.
"We started with two lugs of peaches," she said. "That was enough for 20 quarts of sliced peaches and 30 jars of jam."
Processing that many peaches can be a chore.
"I think it's fun," Giles said. "That's why I do it."
To cut down on some work, Giles chooses freestone varieties because the pits pop right out. She peels the peaches by dropping them in boiling water for 30 seconds, then transferring them to a bowl of ice water.
"It's much easier that way," Giles said. "The peels slip right off. Make sure you have firm peaches; you don't want them too soft."
After packing the slices or halves in sterilized jars, Giles covers the fruit with light syrup. To make the syrup, dissolve 1 cup sugar in 1 quart water, then bring to a boil. She multiplies that recipe as needed.
"I don't like to use a lot of sugar," she said. "That ratio is just right."
She adds a squirt of lemon juice to keep the peaches looking bright, then seals with new lids and clean rings.
Finally, Giles processes the jars in a hot-water bath for 25 minutes.
After they've cooled and the lids have been checked for a good seal, the jars should be kept in a cool, dark place. Sunlight and heat can cause the peaches to brown. (UC master food preservers recommend putting the jars in a cardboard box on the floor of a closet.)
So far, Giles' canner has gotten a summer workout.
"I also can vegetables, apricots, berries," she said. "I got 12 lugs (about 300 pounds) of local Bing cherries this year, so besides the usual, I did French pickled cherries, brandied cherries and cherry pie filling."
Even a canning aficionado can reach her limit.
Said Giles, "So many pits! If I never see another cherry, I'm OK. I think we've got enough to last awhile."