Labor Day is gone, but summer is here, the undead heat and humidity having just arrived when the season was supposed to be gone. How to live like summer now that it feels like summer? Buy a carload of peaches and make jam.
End-of-summer jam (as well as tomato sauce and delusional vodka ice pops to cry over) is a perfect antidote to the sadness induced by never having a truly hot week until it was too late to appreciate it, after you'd packed up your white pants and used all your vacation days. Tasting the ripe fruit in December can be your standing celebration of this greatly mistimed summer of 2014.
Last week, I got so depressed at the thought of not being able to get peaches come winter, I decided to learn to make jam. I'd attempted similar recipes before in compotes for pancakes and angel food cakes, so I assumed that the process would be roughly the same, just with the added step of actually canning the boiled fruit.
I looked up a number of recipes, judging each based on how few steps they demanded, and landed on a hybrid of this one at One Hundred Dollars a Month and this instructional guide to canning at the Ball canning-jar company's website.
New Jersey peaches (and nectarines) are soft, juicy, and perfect for canning just at the end of summer. Mid-August is best, but like the weather, you can still find them in peak summer form into September. The easiest way to tell a peach's ripeness is by its aroma: does it smell like a peach? Then you're ready to make jam.
Here is the simplest, least Etsy way to make peach jam that will last you through the winter at times of melancholy. This jam is great on scones, dark breads with butter, as topping for vanilla ice cream, and straight from the jar when you're feeling particularly sad. It is very sweet, a factor you can modify with your own sugar measurements.
- 8 cups of peaches, cubed and pitted (You can peel them but that's prissy; I like my jam chunkier and with skins, like marmalade)
- 10 cups of white sugar
- 5 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 12 tablespoons of pectin
- 12 eight-ounce canning jars
- 1 funnel
- 1 big pot and a big colander that can nestle inside it (If you're fancy, you can buy a canner, which is just a large pot with a rack built-in, making the lowering of jars into boiling water easier and more stable, but I like to improvise)
- 1 small pot for boiling lids
- 1 medium-sized pot for peaches
- Some sort of heatproof lifting tool like a pair of tongs
- Unpack your jars, lids, and bands, and wash them thoroughly with hot water and soap. Set them out to drain.
- Place the colander inside your large pot and fill the pot three-quarters of the way with water, so that the colander is well submerged. Put your jars into the colander standing upright, so that they're completely covered and full of water. Cover the pot with a lid. Place your jar lids and bands in the smaller pot, uncovered, turning it on to a simmering heat. Let the pot with the jars come to a rolling boil and keep it boiling for 15 minutes, then lower the heat. You'll leave both pots at a low-to-medium heat while you prepare the jam.
- In the medium-sized pot, mix the chopped peaches, lemon juice, and pectin. Bring to a full rolling boil while stirring constantly to avoid burning. The mixture should reach a point so that when you stir with your spoon, it will continue to bubble up around it at a mild boil. When it gets there, add sugar and stir constantly for one more minute. Remove from heat.
- Remove one jar from the pot of hot water, dump out any water that's in it, and spoon some of the jam into it through the funnel, until the jar has only 1/8 inch available room left. Stab a knife or other tool down into the jar, all the way to the bottom of the jam, to release any air bubbles. Close tightly with a jar lid and a band. Repeat until all jars are full, but don't take the pot off the heat.
- Lower each jar slowly back into the canner or colander, making sure each one is covered by about two inches of water. When they are covered, place the lid back on the pot and bring to a boil again. When water is boiling, set timer for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, remove the jars from the pot using tongs and place them on a rack to cool. The surface of each lid should be flat to the touch; if you feel a raised bump in the center, that means your jars are not completely sealed. In 24 hours, if the bumps have stayed flat, your jam is sealed and can be stored for one year. If the tabs have popped up, the seal didn't work, but the jam can be saved in the refrigerator for three months.