Saturday, August 21, 2010

Jammin' Peach Jam

Our Peach tree had a ton of fruit this year, so Gil, who is stubbornly disinclined to eat fresh fruit of any sort unless they are super ripe or fortified with extra sugar (sigh, he's like fifty-something going on five) was highly amenable to the idea of making some peach jam. 

Harvest of Scarlet Robe peaches from the garden.

So here goes. Our peach jam experiment. This recipe is from Ball's Blue Book Guide to Preserving:

1 quart (4 cups) finely chopped, peeled, pitted peaches
7 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 3-oz. pouch liquid pectin

1. The easiest way to remove peach skins is to immerse them in hot water and then place them in an ice bath. Fill a large glass bowl with water & ice cubes; set aside. Bring a medium stock pot (about 3/4 full) of water to a boil. Blanch peaches in boiling water in batches for about 1 minute.

To remove skins, boil peaches for 1 minute before removing them to an ice bath.

After 1 minute, remove peaches from boiling water to an ice bath for about 20-30 seconds. Drain & set aside in a large bowl or container. Process remaining peaches in same manner until done.

Blanch peaches in ice bath 20-30 seconds.

2. Using your fingers, gently rub skin off of peaches (they should slide off quite easily at this point). 

Peaches, all peeled & purty!

3. Cut peaches in half and remove pit. Slice peaches and then cut out the fibrousy, stringy, reddish stuff near the pits. Detracts from the texture of a nice jam.

Slice out that stringy portion adjacent to the pits. 

4. Chop peaches fine to medium-fine (your call), for a total of 1 quart or 4 cups. 

1 quart/4 cups of chopped peaches.

5. Now's a good time to start sterilizing those jars. For this recipe, we used eight 12-oz. jelly jars and one 1-pint mason jar. First up, wash jars, lids and bands in hot, soapy water. Rinse well and set aside. 

Gil, the wunder-washer, sudsing & rinsing those jars, lids & bands.

6. Fill large pot (we used the Presto Pressure canner pot) with water and heat to 180F. Place jars in pot of hot water to sterilize and keep there until ready to use. 

7. Fill another smaller (2-qt) pan with water and also heat to 180F (do not boil). A candy thermometer works great here to gauge the water temperature. Place lids and bands in pot to sterilize. Bands can be removed to dry after 5 minutes. Leave lids in hot water until ready to use (just remember - keep on low simmer, do not boil!).

Lids & bands in hot water.

8. In the meantime, combine 7 1/2 cups sugar in large sauce pan with chopped peaches and 1/4 cup lemon juice. Bring to a boil slowly over medium to medium-high heat, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. 

Stir together sugar, peaches, and lemon juice in large pan.

9. Stir in liquid pectin and bring mixture back to a hard boil. Cook 1 minute and then remove from heat. 

Stir in pectin. 

Ball's liquid pectin (they come in boxes of two 3-oz. packages), is stocked in most supermarkets. 

After boiling for 1 minute, remove pan from heat.

10. Skim foam from top of jam mixture. 

Jam, skimmed clear of the foamy stuff on top.

11. Remove jars and lids from their respective hot water baths onto a dry towel. Ladle hot jam into jars (funnel works well here), leaving about a 1/4-inch in headspace. Top jars with lids and close tight with bands. 

12. Place jars of jam back in pressure canner/large pot and process at 180F for 10 minutes. 

Viola! We canned these last Sunday and since then, Gil has tried the jam on vanilla ice cream and French bread. So far, so good. 

POSTSCRIPT: Another great cookbook I highly recommend for anyone interested in canning is Linda Amendt's Blue Ribbon Preserves. And, my bible for prepping and sterilizing jars, lids and bands is the little paper insert included with most packages of Ball's mason jars. 

Oh, and by the way, the canning process is way more fun when you've got a glass of vino on the side and Level 42, the Bee Gees, or the Wolfgang Press doing a number on your iPod. Just sayin.'

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