Every year, I put up peaches for the winter months. Canning peaches is not terribly difficult, but neither is it for those without a little stamina. You see, there are a couple of things about peaches that makes preserving them a commitment. Peaches are a very tender- unless you are eating the fruit from the tree the same day you are picking it, you are getting just slightly under-ripe fruit, but for a very good reason. A basket full of fully ripe fruit would be soup by the time you get it home. The second curious thing about peaches is that each peach ripens in it’s own sweet time (pun intended). I remember going down to my parents basement to the single layer of peaches sitting out on old newspaper, trying to gently figure out which ones were ripest. Put these two facts together and you end up canning peaches for several days. The plus side of this is that you can try out lots of different preserving methods. The bad news is that your kitchen floor will be one sticky mess for a week.
This year, peaches, like most other produce, is late. When the peaches finally did get ready last week, it came at possibly the worst time. They were slow ripening, so we only peeled up a couple of meal’s worth for supper. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but they seem to have ripened and then over-ripened overnight. Gone were my plans to try canning with cinnamon and a new chutney recipe I had found. Instead, I found myself hurriedly canning up everything that hadn’t taken on a new form (read: blue-green and fuzzy) in one afternoon. This year, we have frozen peach slices, peaches frozen in orange juice and new to our repertoire – spiced peach jam.
Thankfully, peeling peaches is a relatively simple process. If you hit it just right, you can sometimes peel them without the dunk in super hot water. That takes a pretty miraculous alignment of stars however. Best boil the kettle.
The original recipe calls for whole allspice and somehow tying the cinnamon stick inside the spice bag. I did not have whole allspice in the house and I was not willing to perform acrobatic acts to secure the cinnamon inside the cheesecloth. The ground allspice seems to have worked just as well and the cinnamon was quite happy to float free.
This is what gel testing looks like. This is a long-boil, no pectin added jam. To make sure you don’t have soup coming out of your jar in a few months (most likely when you are serving it to your mother-in-law, because that is when these things happen), you will need to perform a gel test. To do so, you simply take a chilled plate, drop a teaspoon’s worth of jam onto it and allow it to cool. If the jam looks like this, it is done and ready to can up. If it doesn’t, keep cookin’.
The spice bag will hold onto a great deal of the jam. Since this is a precious commodity, I suggest hanging a sieve over your cooking pot and using a wooden spoon to mush and scrape out every last bit of peach jam goodness.
My batch yielded 5 – half pint (approximately 1 cup) and 2 – 4 oz. (gift basket size) jars. The recipes says it will yield 8 half pints, but it has been my experience that most recipes are slightly off in their yields. Year to year variations in crop growing conditions make it nearly impossible for an accurate count. It also didn’t surprise me that it took much longer than the stated 15 minutes to get to the gel stage. This year has seen lots of rain, and the juicy fruit needed extra time to boil off some of the moisture. What I do wonder about is why the recipe asks for a 1/2 cup of water to be added. This seems counter productive to me, but hey, what do I know?
Spiced Peach Jam
- 8 cups crushed , peeled, pitted peaches
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 cup water
- 6 cups sugar
- 1 tsp cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 tsp allspice
Combine fruit, lemon juice, water, and spices in a deep stainless steel saucepan, cook gently 10 minutes
Cook, stirring frequently to prevent sticking
Pour into jars once gel test is successful.
Yield: Approximately 8 half pint (250 mL) jars