Thursday, July 8, 2010

Praise Summer- It's Peach Jam!

It has been hot hot HOT in Virginia. Days have been reaching the triple digits and my office just lost air conditioning- so there is clearly no better time to fire up the stove and make some jam!

My first batch of jam was back in May at my boyfriend's parent's house at the height of strawberry season. There had been a death in the family and having never been through this kind of situation before, I wasn't quite sure how to help the family cope. I figured that I should turn to something I was familiar with; food, and hoped that jam might bring some momentary comfort. The jam was a success and I made a second batch as soon as I got home- you know, to hone my new found skillz.

This past weekend the boyfriend and I spent a solid 4 hours in the car in what should have been a 2 hour trip. Yes, I know it was the 4th of July. The point is, between Chesapeake, VA and Nag's Head, NC there are a lot of fruit stands & farmer's markets and the haul we brought back just about made up for the hassle. I got 5 pounds of peaches, a homemade tomato vadilia onion salad dressing, a handmade peach basket, 2 pounds of the juiciest tomatoes and Kris had his first BLT ever ($2.50 and on Wonderbread) and it might have been the best one I've ever had.

Peach Jam came about this time as a started slicing up peaches for a cobbler and realized that I really didn't want another baked good or sweet. How about preserving those juicy North Carolina peaches for later, say February when I'm about ready to hang myself waiting for the weather to heat up! And let me tell you, I already know this jam is gonna do the trick because the first taste of this jam re-defined Peach Jam. I have obviously never had peach jam made from scratch before because this was an experience. My brain's entry for peach jam used to include "sweet", "dense" and "hint of peach flavor", now it's been re-catalogued as "juicy", "peachy" and "bright". Yes, it's still very sweet, but sweetness is no longer the distinguishing characteristic. This will of course depend of the type and ripeness of your peaches, but if you use your brain (make this in season) and taste buds (ripe but not bruised peaches), you too are in for a treat.

Peach Jam
Adapted from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving 2009

Makes 8 half pints

  • 1 quart of not overripe peaches (about 10 peaches)
  • 7 & 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 1/4 cups fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pouch liquid pectin

Start by peeling and cutting up 1 peach at a time onto a cookie sheet. Using a potato masher, mash the peaches (not too much!) and measure them out into 1 cup increments until you have 1 quart (or 4 cups).

Combine the peaches, sugar and lemon juice in a large dutch oven or pot. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the pectin and bring the mixture to a hard boil. You'll know it's a hard boil when stirring the mixture doesn't lessen the bubbling. Let it boil like this for 1 minute.

Add the jam to the sterilized jars and process as usual, boiling the jars for 10 minutes and letting them sit in the water for 5 minutes before removing. Can be stored for 1 year.

If you need a tutorial on jam making, here is a very handy one complete with pictures!


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