Food & Swine

Fresh Peach Jam

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This time of year, succulent peaches are available at every turn, for a reasonable price.  Capture the glorious flavor of fresh peaches to have all year long with delicious fresh peach jam. My biggest inspiration to make jams and jellies is a sweet woman named Louise P. from Iowa.  She enters the most beautiful jams, jellies, preserves, conserves, fruit butters and more for canning competitions at the Iowa State Fair.  I’m inspired to preserve the flavors of summer as she does.  Did I mention she is the nicest food entrant I’ve ever met and she’s genuinely happy for anyone who wins any contest?  She’s such a joyful woman and has a killer smile.  I love her and we write letters back and forth to each other throughout the year.  I save each one. Here is some of the knowledge she’s shared with me on the various types of products you can create to preserve the beautiful fruits that are available throughout the year.

101 Jelly, Jam, Fruit Butters, Preserves, Conserves: 
Jelly: Juice of fruit (apple, pear, grape etc.) combined with pectin of choice (I use Sure-Jell) and sugar.  Firmer end result.
Jam: Pieces of peeled, cored and chopped finely/mashed fruit combined with pectin (Sure-Jell) and sugar.  Less firm end result due to fruit in jam.
Fruit Butter: peeled cored and chopped fruit or cherries or pumpkin, cooked low and slow for a very long time until deeply brown in color, spices added. Pectin may or may not be used.  May be extremely thick (if pectin is used) or runny like applesauce. (Examples of Fruit Butters: Apple Butter, Pumpkin Butter, Cherry Butter)
Preserves: Larger pieces of fruit, cooked with sugar (pectin usually not added). Loose end result with larger chunks of fruit.
Conserves: Mixed fruits cooked as jam is cooked, garnished with nuts and raisins.
*Terminology: Set: jam/jelly etc. achieves the desired thickness.

Of all of these potential creations, jam is my favorite, with preserves coming in a close second.  My secret: Make jam with some intentional ‘chunks’ of fruit laced throughout.  That way you achieve the ‘set’ that is desired (jam is thicker than preserves) due to the pectin used for jam, but you have beautiful delicious pieces of fruit that truly capture the flavor you wanted.

I was always afraid of hot-water-bath canning.  There are so many resources and it overwhelmed me!  The first time I did it, I got burned at least twice.  I learned a bit more about preparation and having long sleeves and oven mitts at every turn!  I’ll walk you through canning a bit. Trust me, NBD.  I’ll hold your hand… promise.

Let’s make jam! (Full recipe at the end of post.)

Assemble the team of ingredients you’ll need.

14 – 4 oz. quilted jelly jars with rings and new lids (the solid part that seals)
Granulated Sugar (a small 4 lb. bag will do, you’ll need 5 1/2 C)
1 Package of Sure Jell
3 LBS. firm yet ripe peaches (ones you’d LOVE to eat)
1 lemon (you’ll use the juice only) 
1 tsp butter (if desired, to reduce foaming)

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First thing: wash and sterilize (even if brand new) the jars, rings and lids.  I do this by using the sanitize cycle on my dishwasher OR by boiling everything for a few minutes in a tall pot of water.  Bring the water to a boil first, add jars/rings/lids and wait 2 minutes.  Remove to a clean dry cloth. Dry completely.  I place the clean jars in a 9×13 pan so they are easy to fill later.  While I’m doing this, I take time to fill out the cute-sy labels.  I love giving jam and jelly as gifts, people think it is special and it is an easy gift to have on hand.

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Next thing: Peel and chop peaches.  Some people blanch the peaches and the skin falls off but for me, peeling is cathartic.  I enjoy peeling fruit.  Just be sure you don’t remove much fruit with the peel!  If you want a smoother consistency of jam, chop finely and as uniformly as possible into 1/8-1/4″ chunks.  You’ll see I have some irregular chunks of peaches in the photo below that are much larger, by design.  I love spreading jam on my toast and having larger bits of fruit that made it through the cooking process!

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See the Sure-Jell package on the chopped fruit. I’ve forgotten to add that before… FAILURE, so this is my insurance policy to remember!

Let’s cook this jam.  Make sure you have chopped peaches, lemon juice, Sure-Jell and pre-measured sugar.  Once you start cooking, don’t walk away.  This is important.

Add peaches, lemon juice, Sure-Jell and butter to the large pot.  Stir and bring to a full ROLLING boil.  This means you can’t stir the boil away… it just keeps boiling.  Once this is achieved, add the sugar and stir well.  Keep stirring occasionally until the jam mixture reaches a full rolling boil again and set a timer for 60 seconds.  Cook at a boil, while stirring, for 60 seconds then immediately remove from heat.  (Super bread baking tip: we let our Oatmeal Bread dough rise on the warm part of the range top making the rising times super fast. We made 3 loaves!)

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You need helpers when you make jam… it is only right!  My sister is whole heartedly admitting to catching the baking bug. Along with my cousin who is visiting, they were really into baking bread and making jam, I was in heaven! My sis has a stand mixer now that I had won in a baking contest last year that she didn’t even know I had (ask and you shall receive!).  She made a glorious pan of Dutch Letter Bars and I’ll be sharing that recipe next week!

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Look at these budding bakers!

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Back to the JAM! Skim any foam off of the top of the jam if you’d like.  The butter will reduce the amount of foam you have.  Foam is more visible in grape, blueberry and other darker jams and jellies.  It still has great flavor, just a light appearance that may make you feel as if your jam looks flawed.  It passes brilliantly in lighter colored jams and jellies, so don’t worry with peach, pear etc!

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Ladle the peach jam into jars, and don’t be sloppy!  Leave 1/8″ at the top of the jar for ‘headspace’.  This will ensure a proper seal for the canning later.  Less air = less space to develop bad bacterium that can ruin your batch of jam.

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Clean the outside of the jar off with a clean cloth, using caution because the jars are now very hot.  Add the lids and rings and close tightly.  Add jars to a handy canning basket if you have one OR directly into a large pot of boiling water, covering 2 inches above the jars.  Boil or ‘process’ sealed jars in this hot water bath for 10 minutes for jams and 5 minutes for jellies.  (These instructions come with the Sure-Jell packet!)

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Boil away!  (4:01 left)

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Remove from heat carefully and let stand until cooled. You’ll know your jam jars are sealed if you press on the top of the lid once cooled and they do not pop. Jam should keep in a cool dark place for 1 year, though once you open the jar, keep refrigerated and consume within 3 weeks or so.  It’ll never last that long though, I promise!

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Enjoy!

Fresh Peach Jam
Makes 7 Cups of Jam
By: Cristen  Modified from Sure-Jell packet recipes
www.foodandswine.com

4 oz. quilted jelly jars with rings and new lids
5 1/2 C Granulated Sugar
1 Package of Sure-Jell (yellow package)
3 LBS. firm yet ripe peaches (ones you’d LOVE to eat)
1 lemon (you’ll use the juice only) 
1 tsp butter (if desired, to reduce foaming)
For more detailed instruction, see photos above.
Sanitize jars, lids and rings. Dry and set aside.
Peel and chop peaches to desired size. 1/8-1/4″ thickness with some larger pieces if desired.
Measure out 5 1/2 C sugar into medium bowl.  Set aside.
Place peaches, lemon juice, Sure-Jell and butter into large stock pot. Turn on heat to medium-medium high.  Bring to full rolling boil.
Add sugar. Stir until mixture comes to full rolling boil.
Boil for 60 seconds.
Remove from heat, scrape foam from top of mixture.  (Foam is still good to eat! Make some toast!)  Fill jars with peach jam.  Leave 1/8″ headspace (don’t fill jam to top, leave 1/8″ room from jam to top of jar)
Place lids and rings on, tighten.
Process in boiling water for 10 minutes.  Remove.  Cool. 
Will stay for 1 year in a cool dark area.  Once opened, refrigerate and use within 3 weeks or so.

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