Preserve end-of-season produce with Martha McMillin at Preserving Place

7 canning tips, plus a recipe for rummy peach pecan conserve
Courtesy of Martha McMillin

Courtesy of Martha McMillin

Starbucks has started serving pumpkin spice lattes, which can only mean one thing: Hearing “It’s Fall Y’all” is just around the corner. With that in mind, we turned to expert canner Martha McMillin at Preserving Place for tips on how to best savor the last few gems of summer for year-round tasting. Below is a recipe for her rummy peach pecan conserve, but do move quickly—Georgia’s favorite fruit starts disappearing after Labor Day.

McMillin’s Canning Tips

  1. McMillin sources her peaches from Watsonia, Dickey, and Pearson farms. If you want local rum, look for Richland Rum at these locations. Note: rum settles into the preserve and rises as the ingredients settle, so don’t add too much.
  2. Use dried figs to add a hint of fall.
  3. When cutting the peaches, firm peaches should be cut to a dime size, while soft peaches should be cut to a nickel-size. This helps keep the fruit’s texture intact through cooking.
  4. Throughout the process, skim with a spoon to remove excess foam.
  5. To determine whether your mixture has properly gelled, put two small plates in the freezer, and when you’re ready to test your mixture, remove one and drop a spoonful of the liquid on top. Put the plate back into the freezer for two minutes. After, press gently on the edge of the liquid with your finger. If it wrinkles, it’s ready. If it’s runny, return the mixture to a boil for two more minutes and check again with the second plate.
  6. The space between the top of the conserve and the top of the jar is known as headspace. When you add the conserve to the jars, use a bubble remover or knife around the edge of the jars to remove air bubbles and leave 1/4 inch of headspace.
  7. To test if a jar is properly sealed, press down on the center of the lid. It should not move. If it pushes down and pops back up, it’s not sealed and should be refrigerated immediately.

Rummy Peach Pecan Conserve Recipe


10 cups of peeled, pitted and cut peaches
3 1/4 cups of pure cane sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 large sprigs of mint, bruised (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped and lightly toasted pecans
2-3 Tablespoons of high quality dark rum

Prepare your jars: Sterilize your jars and rings by washing them in soap and warm water or the dishwasher. Place the jars into a canning pot full of water. Bring the water to a boil. It will likely reach a hard boil before the conserve is ready, so reduce the heat to a slow boil until you’re ready. Warm but don’t boil the lids in a small pot of water.

Make the conserve: Place the peaches into a wide, large non-reactive, heavy-bottomed pot. Stir in the sugar and lemon juice. Bring them to a hard boil and maintain at a steady boil. Add the mint to the pot and stir periodically to keep the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan. After about 10 minutes, use tongs to remove the mint stems. Stir frequently for another 10-15 minutes to thicken. After, add rum and pecans. At 221 degrees Fahrenheit, the mixture will be properly gelled. To test this without a thermometer, use the frozen plate trick (see #5 above).

Assemble: Remove the jars and lids from their pots and place on folded towels. Place a funnel into a jar and ladle in the hot conserves. Using a moistened rag, rub the top rim of the jar to clean it. Next, place the lid on top and twist on the ring. Repeat with remaining jars.

Can: Place the jars into the boiling water of the large canning pot. The water should cover the jars by at least one inch. Bring the water to a boil and cook for 10 minutes at a steady strong boil. Remove the jars from the pot and place on folded towels. Do not disturb for 24 hours. Check to see if the lids have sealed properly (see #7 above).

Makes about seven eight-ounce Ball quilted Mason jars