Peach season is in full swing so you might see more recipes than normal using them. I adore peaches and can't wait to make jam each and every year. If you don't already know, peach jam on a piece of toasted buttery sourdough (or biscuits!) might be the best thing ever. I once worked a wedding where the bride gave mini jars of homemade Colorado peach jam as her wedding favors. Cute idea, right?
Jam is easy but canning is, I'll admit, a process. The up side is it's easy to do and well worth it since you can have fresh peach jam all year long! I'll break it down and make it easy for you. If canning is too much for you to handle, you can always make a half batch of jam, keep a jar or two for yourself and give the rest away as gifts. A jar of fresh jam will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks or so. Use it for toast, on top of vanilla ice cream or on a crusty baguette with melted Brie or goat cheese.
I do recommend you pick up a canning kit from Wal-Mart (you can find them other places too) because it will make your life easier and more importantly, you will need the little wire basket thingy they give you to put your jars into so they don't touch the bottom of your pot. Glass touching the bottom of my pot without water circulating underneath freaks me out. It would make a mess too, but I'm sure people do it. Google before you try it, okay?
Let me walk you through peach jam 101. First you will mash about a cup of pitted, skinless chopped peaches in the bottom of a pot. (A quick way to remove peach skins is to drop a few peaches at a time into a pot of boiling water and let "cook" for 1 minute. Then, with tongs, remove the peaches and place them in a bowl of ice water to cool. Make an "X" with a small knife in the bottom of the peach and peel. The skin should come off very easily but if you have trouble, drop it back in the boiling water for another minute and try again.)
Then you add the remaining chopped peaches to the pot and cook over medium-low heat. It will come to a boil and you should simmer this whole mixture for about 30 minutes or until peaches become somewhat liquid. There will be peach chunks left but it will look something like the second picture.
Next, add the sugar, bring to another boil then add the pectin and continue to boil for 1 minute.
After you add the sugar, it will get syrupy like this
Remove the pot from the heat and transfer finished jam into sterilized jars. *This is where people freak the heck out.* Listen, I might get in trouble in the canning world for saying this, but instead of boiling my cans and lids to sanitize them, I simply wash them all in my dishwasher about an hour before I need them. That way the jars and clean and hot, which is exactly what you want for canning. Hot jam needs hot jars and lids. It's just the way it needs to be. I just make sure all the parts to the jar are dry before I begin. (If you have accidentally let your jam cool off before your jars were ready, no worries, just bring the jam to a simmer before transferring it to the jars. I cannot stress this enough- HOT JAM=HOT JARS.
I don't have a picture for the next step. I apologize. After you fill your jars and seal them, you place them into the wire basket six jars at a time, since that's all my pot holds, and place them into the pot that comes with your canning kit filled with boiling water. Once the jars are in, the water should be 2 inches higher than the top of the jars. If it's not, add more water and wait for it to boil. Once the jars are in the boiling water you let it hang out for 10 minutes. Then, using the rubber tongs that come with your canning kit, lift out the jars one at a time and place on a dish towel on your counter and let them come to room temperature. As the jam cools, you will hear the lids pop. That means it has sealed correctly. To test, press the middle of the lids with your finger. If it presses down at all, it did not seal properly. It won't be a total loss since you can still put it in your fridge. Once jars have cooled, you can store at room temperature in your pantry.
adapted from allrecipes.com
makes 10 smaller sized jars worth
12-14 fresh peaches, pitted, peeled and chopped small
4 cups white sugar
1 (2-ounce) package dry pectin
Jars for canning (I use 1 cup jars)
Crush 1 cup chopped peaches in the bottom of a large saucepan with a potato masher. Add remaining peaches, and set pan over medium-low heat. Bring to a low boil, and cook for about 30 minutes or until peaches become liquid (my family like a few bits of peach left)
Pour peaches into a bowl, and then measure 6 cups back into the pan. It should be pretty close to six cups without a lot left over, if any. Add sugar, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Gradually stir in dry pectin, and boil for 1 minute.
Remove from heat after 1 minute, and transfer to hot, fresh from the dishwasher and dried completely (see note above in the text) jam jars. Process in boiling water, with the help of a canning kit for 10 minutes. Remove from water, place jars on a dish towel on the counter top and let cool until room temperature and place on shelves.
Happy canning! Be careful, you might catch the bug. I want to make a fresh strawberry-pineapple jam next!