In my first year of harvesting from my peach tree, I learned a few lessons. I was so intent of picking my peaches at the absolute prime level of ripeness that in the process of testing the fruit for ripeness and picking them off the tree, the fruit would get bruised or slightly squished. At first I didn’t mind and enthusiastically ate the blemished fruit immediately. But when it started to feel like I was in a competitive peach eating contest, I decided to to switch tactics and instead make peach jam. One of my favorite things about making homemade jam is that you can take advantage of the flavor from perfectly ripened fruit, control how much sugar to add, and add in spices like cinnamon to make it extra special.
Fresh Peach Jam
Makes about 5 half-pint jars
(from Canning for a New Generation- Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry)
12 ounces Granny Smith apples (about 2 large)
4 pounds peaches, peeled, pitted, and diced (about 6 cups)
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
- Prepare your jars for canning (by sterilizing them).
- Cut the apples into quarters, and cut the cores from them. Put the cores and seeds in a cheesecloth bag, tie it off, and set aside.
- Gently combine the peaches and sugar in a wide, 6 to 8 quart preserving pan. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, and cook until the juices just cover the peaches.
- Pour the peach mixture into a colander that’s set over a large bowl. Stir the peaches gently to drain off the juice.
- Return the juice to the pan. Add the apple quarters and cheesecloth bag. Bring to a boil over high heat.
- Boil stirring occasionally, until the syrup is thick and reduced. This takes about 15 minutes.
- Return the peaches (and any accumulated juices) to the pan. Add the lemon juice and cinnamon, stir gently, and bring to a simmer.
- Simmer, stirring frequently until the peaches are very tender.
- Remove the jam from the heat, and stir gently to evenly distribute the fruit in the liquid.
- Remove the cheesecloth bag and the apples.
- Put the jar lids in a medium-sized bowl. Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids. Let sit for 5 minutes.
- Using a jar lifter, remove the sterilized jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a folded towel.
- Ladle the hot jam into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top.
- Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars. Remove the jar lids from the hot water, and drain the water off the lids. Put a flat lid and ring on each jar, and adjust the ring so that it’s just finger-tight.
- Return the filled jars to the water in the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes to process.
- Remove the jars to a folded towel, and do not disturb for 12 hours. After 1 hour, check to make sure the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each; if it can be pushed down, it hasn’t sealed, and the jar should be refrigerated immediately. Label the sealed jars and store.