The peaches this year have been more delicious than any I can ever remember — heavy, fragrant, juicy and sweet from the sunshine of late summer.
Before they’re gone, you can easily preserve fresh peaches’ fleeting, nectared essance by making a batch of homemade jam. Perfect for holiday gift giving, I also love opening a jar of homemade jam on a snowy winter morning, slathering it on a hot, buttery biscuit and being transported back to sweet memories of the previous summer.
I used to make jam the old-fashioned way, standing at the stove for hours boiling and stirring the mixture and trying to keep it from scorching. Recently I made a batch with packaged pectin, and I think the jam tastes better and retains more of the true peach flavor. You don’t need to use as much sugar or cook it as long, and the process is much faster and easier, too.
Here’s the simple recipe I used:
FRESH PEACH PRESERVES
4 cups peeled, chopped organic peaches (about 3 pounds of fruit)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 package powdered pectin like Kraft Sure-Jel
¼ teaspoon butter (Kraft recommends this to reduce foaming)
5 1/2 cups sugar
Prepare the canner and sanitize the jars. The Kraft web site has detailed directions about how to do this, plus a handy altitude chart if you need to make adjustments: http://brands.kraftfoods.com/SureJell/jamming.htm
To peel the peaches, cut an “X” in the bottom end of the peach and drop it in a pan of boiling water for about 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon, cool briefly, and the peel should rub right off. If not, return to the water for another 30 seconds. Finely chop or mash the peaches and measure 4 cups of fruit. Stir the fruit and lemon juice together and pour into a large, heavy bottomed sauce pot.
Stir in the pectin, and add the butter. Turn the burner to high heat and bring the mixture to a full boil, stirring constantly. Add the sugar and stir it constantly to dissolve. Return the mixture to a full boil and boil for 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove the pot from the heat, and skim off any foam that has risen to the surface.
Ladle the jam into the prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe the jar rims and threads with a clean damp cloth. Cover with the two-piece lids and screw the bands on tightly. Process according to your canner’s directions; I processed mine for about ten minutes. Remove the jars and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. When the jars cool to room temperature, check the seals by pressing the middle of the lid. They lids shouldn’t ‘give,’ but if one springs back don’t worry; just move this jar to the refrigerator and plan to use the jam in the next week or so. Store the jam jars in a cool, dark place. This recipe makes about 7 cups of jam.
There is something deeply satisfying about ‘putting up preserves.’ Try it and see if you don’t agree.