What better way to celebrate the on coming summer heat, than with some homegrown fruit? A couple weeks ago I was lucky enough to get an invitation to learn some preserving techniques in exchange for relieving my friends of some of their surplus fruit. A win-win situation if you ask me;) With my mother there to help with my son, (he’s active enough now to be a little bit too helpful in the kitchen) I got a full afternoon of peach prep and preservation information. This was the real deal, can’t buy the book on this kind of knowledge, from a woman who began her love-hate relationship with the peach when she was a little girl peeling peaches on her grandparents farm.
Above are a couple of pictures capturing the glory of our friend’s urban peach tree at peak performance. The zoom shot was taken by her lovely 3 year-old grand daughter, and is leaps and bounds better than any of my photos.
When making preserves or jam (we decided to make jam rather than preserves, which retain more whole fruit pieces), you can utilize the hard, almost ripe fruits alongside the really ripe ones. This will give your jam a little bit more consistency. You can even press the peels to make peach jelly, but two batches of jam and some brandied peaches were enough work for one afternoon.
5 lbs peaches (peeled and quartered)
6 cups sugar (Crikey! Next year I’m gonna try Tera Warner’s Raw Jam Recipe)
*1/4-1/2 cup water (this is optional depending on how juicy your peaches are at prep time, a little extra liquid can prevent them from burning)
1. Place peaches and water in a large pot and set the stove to about med-high. Bring the peaches to boiling and then stay on a high simmer for about 30 min-1 hr. You want to cook the peaches until they stop foaming.
We aren’t exactly sure about the reasoning behind the foam or why you want to cook it off. The closest guess we could muster was that it is a chemical reaction related to the acidic nature of the peach. (I would love to hear something more scientific from any of you chemists out there:)
2. Once the foam has been boiled down, it’s time to add the sugar. Lower the heat again to around med-low, so the jam just barely simmers for about another hour. (I can’t be sure on time b/c I had kind of zoned out from all the hypnotic stirring action at this point)
3. After you’ve lowered the heat, and burning is less likely, you can go ahead and sanitize your jars and lids. This is as simple as placing them in boiling water for a minute or two. Be sure to check the lids for any nicks or irregularities that might compromise a secure seal.
4. When the jam has thickened up a bit and looks and smells divine, pour immediately into your sanitized mason jars or other glass containers and gently place the flat piece of the lids on top. As the jam cools you’ll hear the lids “pop” into place as the cooling liquid creates a vacuum within the jar; which signals that the lid is now safely sealed and ready to be tightened and stored.
Below is a pic of a few of our finished products. The first batch came out a rich caramel color because I wanted to experiment with turbinado sugar, which is supposed to be less processed than the traditional variety. (Now I’m hearing that’s debatable) The turbinado also lent a slightly richer, almost caramel flavor to the jam.
Yield: about 16-20 small jars, 8-10 large jars
Nutritional Info: So delicious I don’t want to know, lol, but at least there’s some phytonutrients in there, right?
So far we’ve enjoyed our jam with hot biscuits and challah bread, mmmmmm. Plus we’ve been indulging in fresh peaches and cream and dousing our pancakes with the extra brandied peach syrup. I think maybe I’ll try modifying my raspberry bar recipe to make a peach variety next, as well as some peaches and cream popsicles.
Anybody else have a great peach recipe they’d like to share? I would love to hear them!