Saturday, September 26, 2009

Peach jam

The mess began small, just some tools sprawled out across a table. But it was much more than a mess than we were after. My GF and I worked on making jars of peach jam for everyone as Christmas gifts. The experiments with blackberries and blueberreis turned out so well, it was only natural to make the peach jam next, since they're in season and all over the stores right now. I love a good peach, and I love being able to package it up for a later date.

The process seemed simple enough. Boil the jars to sterilize them, and keep them boiling while prepping everything. Peel the peaches, measure the sugar and lemon juice, crush the peaches with the potato masher, mix it all together, and keep it boiling over high heat until it begins to set. Then, we ladle it into the hot jars, put the lid on, set the jars back in the boiling water to process, and pray that we don't give all our friends and family botulism.

The first stage of the procedure is peeling the peaches. We had some conflict of opinion on proper methods, and I turned out wrong. So, in case you're wondering, here's what to do: Start a large pot of covered boiling water. When the water is at a rolling boil, drop in all your peaches that you intend to peel. Keep it in there for about a minute. Riper peaches will peel easier than unripe ones. Lift a peach out and feel the skin to see if it slides on the flesh at all. If it does, it's probably ready to go. Drop it into an ice water bath, roll it around for a few seconds, then use your thumbs to slide the peel off.

Crushing fruit is surprisingly theraputic. It's also one of the few times I really get to use my gigantic potato masher. I really don't know what I was thinking when I bought that gigantic thing, considering the fact that I probably spent more on it than all of my spatulas combined. But, it got its mileage when we turned this pile of unsuspecting fruit into pulp.

The fruit is then mixed with sugar, lemon juice, and the pectin. Some fruits are high enough in pectin where all they need is to be reduced. This was certainly the case with the blackberries and blueberries. Peaches are just not so. We made two batches, one with full sugar, and one using a "no sugar added" pectin that ended up tasting too tart to enjoy. I added some sugar to it anyway, which helped the flavor. We'll give them out as 'low-sugar' instead of sugar-free.

The hot peach jam goes into the hot jars, which are then sealed and submerged in boiling water for ten minutes. This is to make sure we got out all the nasty nasties to keep the food safe for human consumption. And I must say, this stuff is tasty, so we ultimately want some human consumption involved.

I'm glad I got the canner, but I should've read the label. This canner is designed for quart-size jars, and we had pint-size jars. They were falling over sideways in the pot and required a little babysitting. One of the lids came off as I was lifting it out. We could not trust it to be shelf stable anymore. (Darn, I have to keep one!)

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