Thursday, July 9, 2015

Peach Jam!

Peaches are my very favorite fruit. I love their sweet juiciness. Summer is my very favorite season, not just because of pool and lake time, but peaches, and so much other fresh produce is available. One of the things that my mom and grandmothers taught me was how to preserve that fresh produce for the winter. My mom would can jars and jars of peaches. I don't like to can "just peaches" as frankly, you can get those on sale and there isn't much that is "special" about canned peaches. Peach jam on the other hand; that is like a little jar of sunshine on my pantry shelf. A warm piece of toasted bread with a schmear of butter and peach jam while the snow is flying... yes please!!!

Today was the day to make and can a batch of peach jam. I had the peaches, and the temperatures outside were mild, as opposed to tomorrow when it will be HOT. Trust me, canning is much more plesant when it isn't super hot.

One of the keys to having great canned food, is starting with great produce. These peaches were amazing. So very sweet, juicy, and their skins just slipped right off. I got these peaches from The Fruit Club. (If you live in Lincoln, they have another truck coming next Wednesday, July 15th. I plan to get another 25# box then... to make and freeze pies, and peach slices).

The first step is to blanche the peaches. This simply means you will have a large pot of hot/simmering (just below a boil) water, and a sink full of really cold (ice) water. Put several peaches into the hot water for 2  minutes. Take them out (use tongs!) and put into the ice water. Then the peels should slip right off. Then cut the peaches in half and remove the pit. Make sure you get the entire pit. Next up is dicing the peaches. Since this is for jam, it doesn't have to be pretty. In fact, I really like random oddly shaped pieces. Just make sure your pieces are of similar size. I just lay the peach halves onmy cutting board and rough chop through the peaches a couple of times. 

After you've gotten the peaches diced, they go into the pot. I follow the recipe on the Pectin Box. It is basically 1 cup of sugar per 1 1/3 (one and one third) cups of diced peaches. Cook the peaches and sugar until it's boiling. 

Notice the pot change??? Well I chose too small of a pot, and shortly after turning the burner on I had peaches and sugar running over the edges... so I had to upgrade the pot size. Note... it is always better to start with a pot bigger than you think you need. ANYWAY. Simmer the peaches and sugar until they are at a good rolling boil. Do you see that foamy guck on top? Use a spoon and skim that off. I do this several times while it is coming up to a boil. It will help so when you can your jam, it is a pretty clear jam and not murkey looking. 

Next, add the pectin. Follow the directions on your package of pectin. You CAN make pectin free jam, but it just doesn't thicken up enough for what I like in jam. After you add the pectin, return to a rolling boil, continuing to skim any of the foamy guck off. 

The next step is probably the most imporant. And I didn't take any pictures. You must have sterile jars and lids and rings. I do this by running the jars and rings through the dishwasher, and putting the lids in a small pan of simmering water on the stovetop. CAREFULLY fill the jars. You want to leave about 1/4" space at the top. TAKE THE TIME to go back and carefully wipe the top of each jar. You don't want ANYTHING there. If there is a bit of jam on the jar top, the lid won't seal. And then you will be sad. 

Finally, put the jars into your canner. I don't actually have a "canner" I have a REALLY LARGE stock pot. And it works. And I'm lucky. It doesn't have a rack, so the jars sit on the bottom, which can get too hot and cause your jars to crack. I need a canner. Perhaps that should be on my Christmas List. Anyway. Put the jars into warm (not boiling) water. The water should cover the jar lids by an inch or 2. Then turn on the heat and bring the water to a gentle boil. Once the water starts boiling (not when you turn the heat on, when the water is boiling) start your timer. You should boil for 10 minutes. (Times need adjusted if you live in a higher altitude than 1,000 feet above sea level...Lincoln btw... is 1, 127 feet... so the 10 minutes works).

After they process for 10 minutes take them out of the water. Having a "jar grabber thing" is really helpful here, although I've done it with tongs before. Set on a towl and just leave them alone. It is tempting to "push on the tops." But, refrain. Soon you will hear the "ping ping ping'ing" of the lids sealing.

Aren't those just gorgeous little jars of sunshine!? This is also a lovely gift with a loaf of crusty bread! That is if you want to share! ENJOY! Let me know if you try this out!! It isn't nearly as difficult as you might think!

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