My second batch came out much better than my first, after I got that figured out. When canning peaches, it's important to do a hot pack instead of a raw pack. Peaches have a lot of air in them, and peeling them and hot packing, which is a very brief cooking, helps them release their air and prevents floating peaches in the jar. Also, adding some ascorbic acid is a must to prevent browning. I use Fruit Fresh. Floating brown peaches taste fine, they just don't look as good in the jar as some perfectly canned ones. Yes, I am vain about my canning! Looks are important to me!!
Last weekend, we were out on the west side of Michigan, and there are peach orchards all over the place. It got me thinking about Michigan peaches. The first peach tree was planted on the west side of the state in 1780, in Michigan's famed fruit belt. Some believed soil to be the reason for the successful growth of peach trees, others suggested that it was the influence of Lake Michigan. The "lake effect" insulated the peaches from extreme hot or extreme cold. Michigan peaches developed into a monopoly in nearby Chicago, at least until the invention of refrigerated railroad cars. A boost to Michigan peach production happened in the 1950s, when the Gerber baby food company (a Michigan company) encouraged growers to plant clingstone peaches for baby food. Clingstone peaches are non melting types, which means they hold their shape better for commercial canning applications and have no red color to them, which is undesirable, evidently, for baby food.
Probably the most famous peach in Michigan is the Red Haven peach. Clingstone peaches ripen before the freestone peaches, and the first freestone to ripen is after the Red Haven. Some folks call the Red Haven a freestone peach, it is more accurately called a semi-freestone. I've had some that were "more free" than others. Melting flesh types can be clingstone or freestone, usually depending on expected harvest date for a particular variety. Red Haven is sort of the "ground zero" for peach varieties. Harvest dates are measured in units of positive or negative RH - and RH is when the Red Haven is ripe for picking. According to the Michigan Peach Sponsors, home canners may prefer either melting or non-melting flesh. Any of the major Michigan varieties are recommended for canning and freezing. I don't think I have ever seen a non-melting variety for sale around here in southeastern Michigan, so I have only canned melting flesh thus far.
Last year I bought some Red Star peaches from a farmer up in Romeo, Michigan, home of the Romeo Peach Festival. Always held Labor Day weekend for over 70 years, the festival is always a good time, with plenty of peach shortcake and a peach queen and a beer tent. Romeo is our side of the state's answer to west Michigan's fruit belt. I was going to buy some Red Havens, but the farmer said to try the Red Stars, because "everyone's growing them now". They were great.