I finally bought the home canning kit they sell at the hardware store. You know, the one I check out while my husband inspects the lawnmowers and grills. Canning is some sort of home cook rite of passage and I was ready to give it a shot. The following Saturday we went to the Farmer’s Market and came home with beautiful fresh peaches, okra (first time for that one) and pickling cucumbers for these. I had high expectations and wanted this jam to be bursting with peach flavor. I looked at the recipe in the Ball Blue Book Guide To Preserving and they used pectin and loads of sugar. I still have research to do on natural pectin, but I read through pages and pages of information on canning and found permission to reduce the sugar content with no ill-effects to the safety of the jam since it does not affect the acidity necessary to keep out harmful bacteria.
Sugar acts as a preservative that will keep your jam looking beautiful during its shelf-life (after proper canning) of about a year. I had a feeling my jam wouldn’t last nearly that long and opted for reducing the sugar content. Since I did not use pectin, I also had a possible thickening problem on my hands. To make sure it had a nice consistency, I adapted my favorite plum jam recipe and cooked the fruit for 30-40 minutes until it was thick and delicious. Whether you want to give canning a shot for the first time or you just want to make a batch and keep it in your refrigerator for a couple weeks, it’s worth it. I made 3 pints of this peach jam and I gave one away, one resides in our pantry and the other is in the refrigerator with spoonfuls disappearing daily. I was ultimately very happy that I reduced the sugar because the resulting jam had a wonderful peach flavor and was definitely sweet. Try it on your favorite bread or put a small dollop on a cracker with some goat cheese for a heavenly snack.
Recipe: Peach Jam
makes 3 pints
5 lbs. ripe peaches
1 1/2 C. sugar
2 lemons, zest and juice
1. Get a large pot of water boiling to remove peach skin. Put peaches in boiling water for 10 seconds and transfer them to an ice water bath to cool. Skins of ripe peaches will remove easily. Remove pit and cut peaches into 1/2″ chunks.
2. Using tongs, put your jars, lids and rims in the boiling water for 10 minutes to sterilize. Use tongs to remove your sterilized jars, lids and rims and allow to dry on a clean, dry towel.
3. Transfer cut peaches, sugar, lemon juice and zest into a large pot (preferably wide to promote the reduction of juices). Bring mixture to a boil and then simmer for 30-40 minutes or until mixture has reduced and is thick. Stir frequently, especially towards the end when the mixture has thickened. I like my jam chunky, but you can use a potato masher or immersion blender to break down the peaches further. Be careful during this process, though, the jam gets very hot.
4. Ladle into pint jars (leave 1/4″ of headspace if doing the full canning process) and cover with lids and bands. Transfer to the refrigerator when jars have cooled or process immediately in a hot water bath for 10 minutes, cool to room temperature and store in a cool, dark place for up to one year.