It is peach season and our tree is overflowing with peaches. Last year I wanted to cook and bake with them, but I didn’t make the time for it. These peaches on this tree are amazing and my favorite version of them is right off the tree when they are juicy and warm from the sun! De-lic-ious!
I’ve never really done a lot of baking with fresh fruit. If I’ve made any kind of fruity desserts in the past I’ve cheated and used canned fruit or mixes with the fruit in them. So, this was a new challenge for me to undertake. I’ve also never canned anything. I had watched my mom make her own apple sauce growing up and I’ve chatted with her about the canning essentials so there was a little knowledge going into this recipe. I learned a lot through this process, so if you’ve never done any work with peaches or canned anything before, you may find my new found wisdom helpful.
I bought all my canning supplies from Fresh and Easy. I’ve seen these kits with the jars, jar tongs, funnel, measuring stick, and magnetic wand and other stores too. Fresh and Easy’s always seemed to be the most reasonable so I ended up with them. I bough two flats of jars (half pint and pint size jars). The half pint jars are a great size for jam.
Step one is cleaning the jars and lids and screw tops. I needed to wash my stock pot so I decided to use that as a way to start heating up my jars and wash them as well. The instructions for any canning recipe will say to make sure jars are clean and that you have a canning pot. I, of course, did not have one of those, so I used the tallest pot we had and it worked just fine thought I was limited to how many I was able to put in at a time.
I used smaller sauce pans for the lids and rings and for helping seal and keep warm some of the jars warm while I worked on the peaches. You’ll need a pot for the peaches blanching process too if you’re using fresh peaches. The skins need to come off before you work with them so blanching is the easiest way to save as much of the peach as you can. Needless to say, you’ll be using a lot of pots for this process so borrow if you need to.
Throughout this process I learned a lot about blanching peaches. The biggest lesson I learned is that unripe peaches do not like to loose their skins. I would make sure that all your peaches are softer before you start working with them. They only really need to go into the boiling water for 60 seconds for the skin to slip off without the peaches getting pulpy. I had better luck when making my peach cobbler (post to follow) when the peaches were nice and soft. This recipe required that I leave the peaches in the water for longer but some of them got pulpy. The preserves and salsa ended up doing just fine but it just seems like I could have done better…and I did on the 2nd attempt at blanching peaches.
You’ll need to have your bowl of ice ready for the peaches when they come out of the boiling water. My food network knowledge tells me that this ice bath (sorry, my ice had melted before taking this picture) is what will shock the fruit and keep if from cooking any further. When blanching veggies, it helps keep their color looking bright. I had a bowl for the completed peaches and then you can see I used my measuring cup for the skins as they came off. Some slipped off beautifully and others needed some help with a paring knife. That only happened for those which were not yet soft, so don’t be afraid to pull those firmer peaches out before you try blanching them. They are going to cause you a lot of extra work if you try to peel the firm peaches before they are ripe. I suggest putting a baking sheet underneath your work space to for an easier clean up. If you have one with sides, that’s ideal. I did that for my cobbler and was so glad I did. Peaches can make a sticky mess and moving peaches from water to bowls is not a dry process either. Save yourself some clean up since you’re already using enough pans that will need to be cleaned!
They look pretty don’t they! You can see the different textures and can probably tell which ones were easier then the others to peel…whoops!
Depending on how many pints you want to make will determine your lemon juice. I bought two large lemons and it gave me 1/2 a cup. I believe I set mine for 6 pints so I only needed 4 tablespoons. The web site where I found this jam recipe allows you to alter the serving. So you can determine how much lemon juice you need after you change that serving size. I was only able to get about 8 cups of peaches so I altered the recipe until it just called for 8 cups of peaches! That’s one way to do it.
I diced up my peaches so they were about 1/2 thick and this ended up being a good size. The peaches settle at the top of the jam anyways so depending on how big of chunks you want is how small you can cut them up.
So the recipe calls for crystallized ginger, gingerroot, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ground allspice. I have never bought ginger or allspice in my life so I was beyond frustrated when I decided to switch my recipe to this one and realized I was a few ingredients short. The story of my life. I looked around and decided that pumpkin pie spice DID have allspice and ginger in it so it would have to make due. I think you can just do cinnamon and it would be pretty delicious but the additional spices gives it a savory depth of flavor. I used the recommended measurements for cinnamon and ground cloves and then did 1/2 tsp of the pumpkin pie spices.
You will add all your peaches, sugar, lemon juice, spices and then fruit pectin to the sauce pan. I was not happy with how runny my jam was even after adding the pectin and letting it sit on the heat. I followed directions, but I think I may have let it sit on the heat a little too long. I ended up adding more pectin and praying it would turn out okay. I did a little internet research about runny jam and most sites said to put your jam back in a pot, and add a bunch of ingredients to it. Since I feared the runny jam before I had canned it, I decided to just add more pectin. Easy enough and the consistency ended up being just fine. So, I’m not entirely sure what I did right. My hint would be to not keep it on the heat too long after adding the pectin (per the recipe instructions). Get it mixed in, pull it off the heat and get it canned quickly. Before you start the canning process, make sure you have all your jars heated and lids/seals ready to go. I didn’t have all my jars heated up and ready to go so that was part of the reason why my jam stayed on the stove for longer then it should have. So…be a boyscout and always be prepared!
The funnel in your canning kit is your friend. It’s awesome and makes the pouring part go very smoothly. I used a measuring cup to get it from the pot to the jar which worked very well. No spoons necessary.
When your jars are filled make sure to add water to your pot to cover the jars. My large pot took 5 half pint jars but only four of the pint size jars fit. I used another pot that was not large enough to put water into cover the jars and I put the water to boiling which kept them warm until this larger pot was ready for them. The jars should sit there in the water for 15-20 minutes. Longer doesn’t hurt anything.
One site said 45 min, so honestly I say keep them in for 20 to 30 min. You’ll use your jar grabber (my term for it…can’t remember what it’s called) and get your jars out. You’ll know that they are hot enough and sealed when you hear them pop once they are out of the water bath and starting to cool. This recipe and other say that they need to be checked for sealing in 24 hours, but I wanted to make sure they sealed within 5 min of me taking them out. You’ll test the lids by pressing them down. If they don’t budge like a sealed jar from the grocery stores, it’s sealed. If it pops at all, then it’s not sealed. That doesn’t mean it won’t seal eventually, but I had a couple jars that didn’t seal so I put them in the hot water again while they were still warm and made them go for another 20 min or so. They did eventually seal so I’m glad I did that.
I believe I got about 8 jars out of my batch. I used the 1/2 pint jars for the jam since it was a nicer size then the bigger jars. I let it set up for 24 hours before trying to open a jar and give it a try. It set up really nicely with the extra pectin in it. I’m so proud of it!
You can find the recipe at the following site: http://www.food.com/recipe/grand-champion-peach-jam-169363. As a side note, I’m a big fan of this site! It help you alter the recipe if you want to go bigger or smaller. Not that a little math wouldn’t do my brain good. I just know that doubling or halving a recipe isn’t always as easy as multiplying or dividing by two. Some ingredients are not that easy. This site does it for you, so take a look and see if you can find some fun recipes to try. http://www.food.com.
I’m pretty happy with how my first canning experience turned out. I’m going to do another post on a peach salsa recipe I made the same day and canned as well. I hope to make pickles next! Just shopping around for the best recipe.
Happy canning everyone!