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.
My freezer was in dire need of cleaning out, so I made good use of several bags of frozen blueberries and raspberries that had been lingering in the back of the freezer and made a mixed berry jam with orange zest. The cook time for this jam is much shorter than that required for the usual strawberry jam that I make (due to the use of pectin), and jam is is super sweet, so I’ll be using it sparingly and pairing it with foods that aren’t too sweet to begin with. The flavors are bright and fresh, and the orange zest adds a nice little zing to the wild blueberries and raspberries.
Mixed Berry Jam with Orange Zest
(Adapted from Taste of Home’s Canning & Preserving)
Makes 6 half-pint jars of jam
5 cups of frozen or fresh berries (I used 4 cups of frozen wild blueberries and 1 cup of frozen raspberries)
6 1/2 cups of sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried orange peel OR 4 teaspoons of fresh grated orange peel
1 pouch (3 oz) liquid fruit pectin
- Prep jars for canning. Rehydrate the orange peel (if using) in the lemon juice.
- Defrost the frozen berries. I ran mine under warm water very briefly to get rid of the frost.
- In a large saucepan over high heat, stir together the berries, sugar, lemon juice, and orange peel. Bring to a full rolling boil while stirring constantly.
- Once the mixture has reached a boil, stir in the pectin. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly.
- Remove from heat; skim off foam. Ladle the hot mixture into hot sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles; wipe rims and adjust lids. Process for 5 minutes in boiling water.
I baked and cooked a lot before I started blogging. So, I’ll be using Thursdays (aka TBT or Throwback Thursday) and Fridays (aka Flashback Friday or FBF) to share some of my favorite baking and cooking projects from the past.
It’s hard to find affordable jams at the grocery store that don’t have a lot of preservatives, fillers, and high fructose corn syrup. So I took matters in my own hands and made strawberry jam with only three ingredients- fresh strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice. While it does take some time to prep the jars for canning, the actual process for cooking the jam is really straight forward, and the steps are simple (This was the first time I had canned anything). Plus, this jam is so delicious that it makes me never want to buy jam from the grocery store again. It tastes like jam should taste – sweet and fruity and nuthin’ else.
The basic peanut or almond butter sandwich becomes so much more luxurious when it’s made with homemade strawberry jam.
(Adapted from Canning for a New Generation – Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry by Liana Krissoff)
Makes about 4 half-pint glass jars
NOTE: It’s useful to prep your ingredients and lay out your equipment, bowls, and colander ahead of time. It’s also helpful to have some basic canning tools like a jar funnel (placed in the mouth of a jar to fill the jar without spilling), a jar lifter (helps safely lift jars out of hot water while canning), a lid lifter (lifts lids out of hot water using a magnetic end), and a ladle (used for for transferring the jam into jars). I’ve included a list of equipment I use for jam making at the end of this post.
3 pounds rinsed & hulled strawberries, diced (about 9 cups) – this is equivalent to about 4 pint baskets of strawberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice (a medium sized lemon)
Grated zest of 2 lemons (optional)
Prepare for water-bath canning
- Sterilize the jars (Wash jars and submerge them in a large pot of water. Heat the water to a full boil, making sure the water covering the jars has been at a full boil for at least 10 minutes to ensure proper sterilization). Keep the jars hot in the canning pot.
- Put a small plate in the freezer. This will be used to test whether the jam has been cooked long enough.
- Put the flat lids in a heat-proof bowl.
Cooking the Jam
- Put the strawberries and sugar in a wide, 6-8 qt preserving pan or a large flat saucepan. Bring the berries and sugar to a simmer, stirring frequently, and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
- Pour the berry mixture into a colander set over a large bowl, and stir the berries gently to drain off the juice. Transfer the berries to a bowl and set aside.
- Return the berry juice to the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the syrup is reduced to about 1 1/2 cups. This can take between 10 to 20 minutes. Use a large spoon to skim foam from the syrup as needed.
- Return the strawberries and any accumulated juice to the pan, along with the lemon juice and the zest (if using), and bring to a simmer.
- Simmer the jam, stirring frequently, until a small dab of the jam spooned onto the chilled plate and returned to the freezer for a minute becomes somewhat firm (it will not gel), about 10 to 15 minutes. Skim off as much foam as you can, then remove from the jam from the heat, and stir gently for a few seconds to distribute the fruit in the liquid.
Canning the Jam
- Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids. Set aside and let the rubber on jar lids soften.
- Using a jar lifter, remove the sterilized jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each jar back into the pot. Place the jars 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.
- Drain the water off the jar lids, then put a flat lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so that it’s just finger-tight.
- Return the filled jars to the hot water in the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes to process.
- Place the jars on a folded towel, and do not disturb for 12 hours. After 1 hour, check to see if the jars have been vacuum sealed. This is often indicated by the lid “popping”. You can also test to see if the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each lid. If the center of the lid can be pushed down, it has NOT sealed properly, and the jar should be refrigerated immediately. If the jar lid is indented downward, then the jar has sealed properly. Label the sealed jars, and store in a cool, dark area for several months..
Equipment Used for Jam Making
The following is a list of equipment and tools I use for making jam.
- A very large pot for sterilizing jars
- A big saucepan for cooking the berries
- A large stainless steel bowl to drain the berry juices in
- A medium stainless steel for holding the berries after the juices have been drained from them
- A small stainles steel bowl for stermiling the jar lids
- A small plate to put in the freezer
- A funnel, ladle, jar lifter, and lid lifter
- A big spoon to scoop the foam
- Clean jars and new lids