Fresh GA Peaches Means It’s Time To Can Jam!

Oh yeah.. How I remember growing up with an abundance of sweet ripe juicy peaches during our Georgia summers… in particular the fresh peach ice cream, hand-cranked of course, was a taste I’ll never forget. But I’ll save that for another post.

Now one of my all-time favorites is peach preserves or peach jam depending on how much you crush your peaches. So today I thought I’d show you the “fruits” of my recent labor…my process of making peach preserves. If you have some nice chewy bread in the house, or better yet if you’ve made my sourdough bread from an earlier post, you will definitely want to put these preserves on top of a hot crispy piece of it. Double Yumm!

First let me stress the importance of having all your tools out and ready for use. Mise en place is a French phrase which means “putting in place”, as in set up. For canning in particular this is definitely necessary because in this case you’re  going to be working with hot sugared jam and when it’s  ready to be canned, you need to work efficiently and methodically. You can’t over or under-cook jam or else it won’t gel properly. Things will need your attention quickly and you’ll want to have your tools, food etc. within arms reach. So take the time to get everything set up before you start.

Here I’ve laid out all my tools, pots, jars, lids, everything I’m going to need, so these pictures are like reference lists for me for future canning projects.

Deep pots for water bath method of processing, along with helpful jar lifter, magnetized lid retriever and a wand that measures the head space. (All these can be gotten in a Ball canning accessory kit)

Deep pots for water bath method of processing, along with helpful jar lifter, magnetized lid retriever and a wand that measures the head space. (All these can be gotten in a Ball canning accessory kit)

 

Mixing bowls, jam pot, thermometer, funnel, spatula, spoons, paring knife, potato masher.

Mixing bowls, jam pot, thermometer, funnel, spatula, spoons, paring knife, potato masher.

I find it helpful to use big sheet pans to hold everything. Makes for easier clean up too.

My hot jars come out of the dishwasher and are then placed on a big sheet pan to go into a 250F  degree oven to keep hot & sterilized,  along with the screw tops. (The sealing disks are kept ready to use in a pot of hot water kept at a very low simmer.)

My hot jars come out of the dishwasher and are then placed on a big sheet pan to go into a 250F degree oven to keep hot & sterilized,  along with the screw tops you’ll need 8-9 half pint  mason jars for this recipe. (The sealing disks are kept ready to use in a pot of hot water kept at a very low simmer.)

 

 

All my pretty GA peaches stored separately on a towel, so they don't spoil or bruise by touching each other They can ripen this way too if necessary.

All my pretty GA peaches stored separately on a towel, so they don’t spoil or bruise by touching each other They can ripen this way too if necessary.

Plunge your fruit into boiling water to remove skins. Let sit for 1-2 min.

Plunge your fruit into boiling water to remove skins. Let sit for 1-2 min.

Then plunge into big bowl of ice water for a few minutes. Remove and skins should peel off easily.

Then plunge into big bowl of ice water for a few minutes. Remove and skins should peel off easily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skin and pit peaches, chop fruit or mash with potato masher.

Skin and pit peaches, chop fruit or mash with potato masher.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TIP: Save pits to later remove the almond like center. (hit pit with hammer to split and retrieve nut.) It’s great flavoring for your jam but must be cooked. Do not eat raw! Toxic unless cooked!

Measure 2 qts (3.25#) of mashed peaches and mix with 6 cups (3#) of white sugar in lg bowl before pouring into jam pot.

FYI: For this recipe 5 pounds of whole fresh peaches made the required 2 quarts or 3 1/4# of fruit w/juice after peeling, pitting and chopping.

Whole cloves, allspice, & cinnamon sticks.

Lemon juice, whole cloves, allspice, & cinnamon sticks.

 

 

Put 1 tsp whole cloves,  1/2 tsp allspice, and 2 broken  cinnamon sticks in a spice bag or a tea infuser with a good latch. Hook this to the side of your jam pot before pouring in the peach-sugar mixture.

 

 

I splurged on this French 11 qt hammered copper Marviel jam pot with sloped sides that was recommended by Rachel Saunders in her Blue Chair Jam book.

I splurged on this French 11 qt hammered copper Marviel jam pot with sloped sides that was recommended by Rachel Saunders in her Blue Chair Jam book.

 

Cook rapidly for about 10 minutes skimming any foam off the top. You want the jam to reach a temperature of 220F, Or 8 degrees above the  boiling point at your altitude. Just measure what temperature your water boils, then add 8 degrees for your gelling point.  At my high altitude of 4500′ mine gels at 211. Here’s an excellent reference chart outlining the differences in altitudes and methods for testing the gelling point.

http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/jelly_point.html

You also want to stir the pot  quite frequently to make sure the jam isn’t sticking to the bottom. I find a paddle style flat-edged heavy duty silicone spatula is ideal to “feel” the bottom of your pot, vs a spoon. You want it to be smooth when you scrape the bottom. When the jam forms a single drip off a cold spoon it’s reached the proper gel consistency.  Add your fresh lemon juice to taste, (1 Tbls at a time as it gets bitter if you add too much). Do this at the end of the cooking process. It cuts that sugary taste and balances the flavor nicely.

You can see how the jam has turned a dark rich color as it cooks down.

You can see how the jam has turned a darker rich color as it cooked down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot jam with 1/4" headspace.

Hot jam with 1/4″ headspace.

 

The magnet jar lid lifter comes in handy!

The magnet jar lid lifter comes in handy!

 

 

 

Remove your tray of hot jars from the oven as soon as jam reaches the proper temperature for  gelling. Fill jars with hot jam leaving 1/4″ headspace. Use measuring wand. Be sure to wipe the tops and rims with clean dampened cloth or paper towel. Remove a sealing lid from hot water and place on jar. Then place screw top on but be sure to just gently “hand-tighten”, do not over-tighten the screw top. When you’ve filled all the jars now process them.

Water Bath Processing: Place jars in simmering hot water in deep pot with elevated rack on bottom. Make sure tops of jars are covered by  2″ of water. Place lid on pot and bring water back to full boil and then process, (let boil), for 5 min or longer if you need to adjust for your altitude. (At 4500′ I have to add 10 minutes). See link to chart  above.

Using jar lifter remove jars and place on cooling rack or thick towel. Let sit overnight without disturbing. You should hear the welcome popping sound of each jar . If  any jar lid does not seal, (you can see the Cntr still protruding up and it depresses when you push on it), refrigerate that jar and eat it first.

Rachel Saunders Blue Chair Jam Cookbook’s oven method:  After  ladling jam into jars and placing the lids and screw bands on, she places them back on a clean  sheet pan and puts it  back in 250F  degree oven for 15 minutes.  For me that’s my Aga’s simmering oven. Do put an oven thermometer in there and check that it’s maintaining 250F degrees, no lower.  Be sure to add time and adjust for higher altitudes if necessary. Just to be on the safe side I left mine in the oven for 30 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. All sealed quite nicely.

NOTE: Rachel Saunders technique for processing the jars is an oven method as opposed to the boiling water bath. This is a somewhat controversial method in canning circles, because while it is not approved for home use by the USDA, it is one that is commonly used in commercial production. My opinion: as long as it’s a high acid fruit preserve and it is high in sugar, the risks are minimal. So make your own decisions on which method you feel comfortable with, folks. But I love her book, jams, and method and I even studied her Craftsy.com online course and have been very happy canning my  fruit jams this way. So if you’re an Aga owner like myself, you may just want to live on the edge and utilize your oven heat vs water bath processing on your surface plates.  I have done it both ways with identical results. I find the oven so much easier than dealing with all that hot water on top the stove.

No matter which method you choose those popping lid sounds are such fun! It’s like  applause for a job well done! 👏👍 …well that and getting to eat it of course‼️😋 Ok, it’s calling to me now. But next week I hope to be visiting a local organic you-pick Blueberry Farm and of course blueberry jam will follow.

Sooo yummy, ya’ll!

Yield 8-9 half pint jars

DOUBLE YUMM‼️ My Sourdough bread topped with fresh peach jam.

 

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