Peaches are starting to come into season around here, so we headed out one day to harvest some peaches from a local you-pick orchard. If you’ve only had peaches from the supermarket, let us tell you there is absolutely no comparison to fresh, tree-ripened peaches. To be completely honest, we just do not buy peaches at the store. Too often they are so under-ripe as to be crunchy, hard, and flavorless, or they are soft and mealy, but still flavorless. Fruit is really meant to be picked and eaten when ripe.
Naturally, we went hog-wild at the orchard and came home with about 20 pounds of good peaches. The kind that dribble juice down your chin and make you need to change your shirt immediately after eating one. And, that’s the best way to have fresh peaches: just eat ’em. But, when you have 20 pounds of peaches, that means you need to do something with them. So, for the next few days, we’ll show you what we did with ours.
We started out making up a batch of jam. Now, we planned on canning this jam, so we followed the instructions for Quick Peach Jam in Put ’em Up! Fruit, by Sherri Brooks Vinton. Now, we aren’t going to show you how to can the jam with a boiling water method; if you already know how, great. If not, we strongly recommend that you get a book to show you the step-by-step process, such as Put ’em Up! Fruit, or, even better, find a course where you can learn hands-on from an experienced canner.
Makes 8 cups
Make no substitutions, especially if you plan to process the jam. Period. Yes, use the bottled lemon juice to increase the acidity level. The pectin and calcium water cause the jam to gel. And, perhaps surprisingly, use about 25% under-ripe peaches and 75% perfectly ripe peaches, and not a single over-ripe peach.
Procedure in detail:
Combine sugar and pectin. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and the pectin. You want to do this so that a big clump of pectin doesn’t end up in the jam all at once. It would gel pretty much immediately and you’d have a gummy, chewy, gel ball right in the middle of your jam. Yuck.
Mix water and lemon juice. In a large (3 quart) heavy-bottomed saucepan stir together the water and lemon juice. The lemon juice is there for two reasons: first and foremost, to increase the acidity of the jam so it will be safe to can at home. Don’t worry, you won’t taste it. Second, it will keep the peaches from browning.
Peel and halve peaches. Since it was only four pounds of peaches, we just peeled them with a paring knife. We know that you can dip them in boiling water and the skins will slip right off, but we didn’t bother. Then we split them in half and removed the pit. Into the lemon water with a quick swish to get the lemon water to coat, and then on to the next peach.
Simmer peaches. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes to cook and soften the peaches.
Mash peaches. You can’t really make jam with peach halves, so break out that old-fashioned potato masher and give the peaches a good mashing, until the mixture looks like jam.
Add calcium water. The contents of the Pomona’s Universal Pectin package includes the material you need to make calcium water. A small packet that you mix with water, basically, but read the instructions so as to make it in the correct strength.
Add sugar and pectin. Gradually pour the sugar and pectin mixture into the peaches while stirring continuously. By adding it slowly while you stir, your jam will not have lumps of congealed pectin.
Simmer. Bring the jam back to a boil and them simmer for 1 to 2 minutes, again, stirring continuously.
Let rest. Remove from heat and let the jam rest for 5 minutes, giving it a gentle stir every once in a while. Skim off and discard any foam.
Pack. Pack the jam into appropriate containers and REFRIGERATE. Unless you know how to can, this jam is not shelf-stable and must be refrigerated.
This jam tastes exactly like fresh peaches, and it was really pretty simple, so, if you’re thinking of trying to make jam, really consider using this recipe. Now, we did go to the extra effort to process our jam so it would be shelf-stable, but we also put some right into the fridge. It gelled perfectly, has a great texture and color, and the taste, the taste is like the best peach jam you’ve ever eaten. Really! We figure that it tastes so good because we used the very best fruit. Five stars!