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I’m just peachy – you? September 12, 2012

Posted by Toy Lady in canning, Food.
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Remember how I bought some peaches the other day?  The peaches – in fact, pretty much all the fruit  – have been so good this year, and I just couldn’t resist trying to preserve as much of that sweet summery goodness as I could!

So when I stopped at the farmers’ market last weekend and saw a peck basket of “seconds” for, well, dirt cheap, I knew it was exactly what I needed for some peach jam.  After all, it’s JAM – who cares what the fruit looks like?

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I’ve been making jams and preserves for, well, for a lot of years, I guess.  And up until very recently, I’ve always used the standard Certo recipes – just like my mother always did.  And if you’ve ever made jams this way, you know that the basic recipe involves “take some fruit, add about twice as much sugar. . . “

You think I’m kidding?  The recipe for nectarine jam calls for 4 and a half cups of fruit to 7 and a half cups of sugar.

WOW that’s a lot of sugar!

PhotobucketYou see, as I understand it, the commercial pectin uses the sugar (somehow) to create a solid jell – and it only needs to cook for a minute.  This can be desirable if you want your preserves to taste more like fresh fruit.  (And sugar, of course.)

I find, though, that the older I get, and the more “healthy” I try to eat, the less inclined I am to want to, well, lick the sugar bowl.  What can I say, I like my fruit to taste like, you know, fruit.

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So I was walking the dog, listening to a Splendid Table podcast, and one of the guests, Cathy Barrow, was talking about making preserves.  Fruit jams with NO commercial pectin – and only as much sugar as you want!

Oh my gosh, this was so easy-peasy I’m embarrassed I didn’t already know it!

I’ve been thinking about doing this anyway, in order to enjoy homemade “fruit-on-the-bottom” yogurt – I wasn’t even that concerned about the jams thickening too much – I just wanted them at least a little thicker syrup, and tasting like fruit, that’s all.

I’m really quite easy to please!

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So here’s what I did.

I took my big old basket of peaches, and I peeled and pitted them, cut them into small-ish bits, and then weighed them.

For every pound of fruit, I added a scant cup of sugar, plus a tablespoon or so of lemon juice, give or take.   I’ll admit it – I used bottled lemon juice for this because (1) I keep it on hand for canning tomatoes, and (2) I didn’t know this at the time, but there was not a SINGLE fresh lemon in the house!
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So we stir the peaches and sugar, cover them, and shove them in the fridge for a couple of days.

That’s right – just walk away and let the fruit macerate.

You will be amazed by just how much juice will seep out of those peaches, mix with the sugar, and become lovely, fragrant, fruity syrup – syrup that’s  actually more fruit than sugar.

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Once we had a free evening, we strained the syrup into a Dutch oven – a pot significantly larger than it looks like you’ll need, because that sucker will foam UP!

Sugar is one of those amazing things – even though the “boiling point” is 212 degrees, well, you can let sugar go and go and go, and it’ll go past that.

We wanted this to reach 220 degrees, or what’s known in the candy-making world (of which I am DEFINITELY NOT a part!) as the “soft jell stage” or, as is noted on my candy thermometer, “jelly.”

Huh.  Coincidence?
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I guess, at that point, it’s technically jelly, right?

So that’s when we dump the diced fruit back in.  Remember the diced fruit?

See, this is how we avoid the whole “fruit cooked to death” thing, though, to be honest, I don’t hate that.  I guess I’m just a general fruit fan.

We returned the fruit to the soft jelly-boiling syrup stuff, and bring it back to a boil.  Not just a boil – a STRONG boil.

PhotobucketLet it boil (but don’t let it boil over!) until the fruit sinks – that means it’s soaking some of that syrupy juice back in – and the syrup thickens.  The foam will eventually clear.   Mostly, anyway.  Really.

And that’s the point where you want to grab the ladle and start filling jars.  Leave an inch or so of headspace, and fit with lids and rings.
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I started with 5 pounds of fruit, and once the syrup had reduced a bit, I ended up with 3 and half pints of jam.  I, unfortunately, didn’t have enough empty half-pint jars (most of them are full of apricot and blueberry preserves), so I ended up sticking it in pints – which we processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

I’ve been enjoying the extra half-jar with breakfast, and you know what?

Homemade peach fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt is pretty darned good!

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Comments

1. Yolande - September 13, 2012

I Keep trying and trying and will continue, but in the jam and jelly, I am an amateur. I burn more than I preserve, and what I do preserve ends up syrup more often than not. My Meme, and all my aunts in France are not impressed. But I will add this one to the experiment list. Not a fan of pectin, looks good.

Toy Lady - September 13, 2012

Yolande, I’m only just starting to branch out from the pectin + tons of sugar myself! I liked this method, and I’m going to try it again soon for apple jelly – wish me luck! Each time, I’ve used my cast iron dutch oven and a LOW LOW LOW flame – and I have to be prepared to hang around in the kitchen for “as long as it takes.” 😕

Plus – I decided that “I don’t care” how thick it is anyway! I’m mostly stirring it into yogurt, so . . . there ya go!

Yolande - September 16, 2012

Okay Christine this much I know is true…you won’t have any touble with the apple, because naturally full of pectin…and actually don’t overcook because of that. Next whenever I can I add a sprig of red or black currant to a batch of jam. Of course that only works when I can find fresh currents. It is impressive if you have never tried, way better than the apple pectin too, and so dark have never notices the cloudy from overcooking. Make sure red fruit jam or else lots of stange colors.
Now, as to your method, or borrowed method, I will let you know. 5 qts of “discounted” strawberries today. Wish me luck.

Toy Lady - September 17, 2012

Oh, absolutely best of luck! I’m looking forward to seeing how it works.

And I figure I’ll be safe with apple jelly because of the pectin thing – I’ve never made JELLY either! I’ll definitely keep the currants in mind, too – I see them occasionally at the market. Thanks!

2. Judy Norton - September 13, 2012

I was wishing I had some peachy stuff to go with my toast today. Enjoy every bite!

Toy Lady - September 13, 2012

Had I only known! Though I think there’s a bit of room for improvement this time!

3. Monday Musings: 09.24.2012 « Dark Side of the Fridge - September 24, 2012

[…] have some nice apple jelly!  I plan to use the same basic technique that I used for the peach preserves a few weeks ago, only straining the fruit out after cooking instead of before.  I […]

4. No Pumpkins Here! « Dark Side of the Fridge - October 17, 2012

[…] may remember that, not too long ago, I had some success with peach jam – I even inspired a loyal reader to try it […]


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