Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Summertime Peach Jam

Well its been a funny old week.  After making the Peach and Almond slice I went in search of some inspiration to make a Peach Jam.  Surprisingly not many recipes for it and those that I found all talked about it being a difficult fruit to make jam from as the pectin levels  are so low in peaches. Pectin is the stuff that makes a jam get a nice 'set'.   I was sure I remembered beautiful, flavourful peach jam that set nicely and burst with the flavours of summertime peaches.  I could do this.

Firstly choose your peaches wisely.  Too soft or over-ripe and and they will struggle to have enough natural pectin to set.  So slightly firmer fruit works better.  I like yellow peaches - call me old fashioned but thats the colour of a peach in my opinion.  When you weigh your fruit you're weighing the whole fruit skin, stones and all.  This recipe made 3 Jars of jam and I calculated it out to about 0.67c per jar.  It is refreshing to know that in this day and age of mass production that it can still be cheaper to crank out a few jars of beautiful - all natural - jam from your own kitchen and put them away for the dreary wintery days ahead.  Believe me when I say you do not need to slave over the stove to make jam - its remarkably straightforward.

Please don't forget to sterilise your jars and lids - you can either heat them in the oven on high heat for about 10 minutes - or you can put them through your dishwasher on hot - lids and all.  You can also use the plastic preserving tops you can buy from the supermarket in the baking aisle instead of lids.  Store your jam in the fridge.

1.5kg of firm yellow Peaches
750g White Sugar
Peel of one Lemon
Juice from 1-1.5 lemons (add to taste)

  1. Firstly you need to stone your fruit and give it a wash.  Run your knife around the middle of each peach twist and pull.  One half will come away and you will have to cut the flesh of the remaining half.  Its quicker than you think.  Don't chop it up too small 1/4 or 1/8th size pieces.
  2. Place all the fruit into a large saucepan.  You are looking for a big pot where the fruit will only take up about 1/3 of the pot if possible.  OK - add nothing else at this point - fruit only in the pot then turn your stove onto a medium head and let the fruit being to cook down in its own juice.  I think this is key to getting the peach jam to set not adding any water.  You will need to keep stirring at first to prevent any sticking until the natural juices begin to flow from the fruit and provide some moisture in the pot.
  3. Add your lemon peel (careful no pith - use a very sharp paring knife)
  4. Cook the fruit until it is cooked and tender.  At this point my fruit was still quite chunky and so I got out my potato masher and gave a few mashes to squash up the fruit a bit to release the juices and create a bit of pulp as well as chunks.  If you don't want a chunky jam you could attack it with a stick blender at this point to make it smoother.  
  5. Add all of the sugar to the pot on top of your fruit.  Don't be too appalled at the amount of all that sugar - thats what jam is!  Stir stir until the jam dissolves and you will see the moisture levels increase. Take the heat a little higher to a med-high heat where it should start to bubble away.
  6. At this point place a saucer into your freezer - you will use this to test if the jam has set and is ready for your jars.
  7. As the mix is bubbling add your lemon juice - start with the juice of one lemon and taste.  You want enough lemon flavour to bring out the flavour of the peaches and make them 'pop' but not enough that it tastes like a marmalade.  I found one and a half lemons juiced was just right but will depend on the size and juiciness of your lemons.
  8. After a rapid boil of about 10-15 minutes - take your saucer from the freezer and spoon about a tablespoon of jam onto it and place it in the fridge for a minute or two.  After a couple of minutes remove the saucer and see if the jam has set.  If its still runny continue boiling another 10 minutes then re-test. and keep doing so until you get the set you want.
  9. When you see the set you want - turn off the heat and using a ladle - fill your sterilised jars with jam.  If using the plastic jam seals as I have above these must be applied to the hot jam jars straight away as they tighten and use the heat to seal themselves.
I hope you enjoy the jam - I hope you give it a try.  Its isn't hard, it doesn't take long and its so satisfying looking at them lined up on your counter and in your fridge and knowing you made it.  


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