Sunday, August 21, 2011

a chunkier peach jam.

 i must confess: i'd never given much thought to jam before last's not that i don't eat it - i certainly enjoy a hunk of marmalade on a slice of freshly toasted bread as much as the next person. perhaps it's just that my relationship to jam has always paled in comparison to my strong - and dare i say emotional - attachment to honey. honey has been the condiment that has stuck with me through the years, from its kid- and priya-friendly bear squeeze bottles to its thicker, spoonable jar varieties. the heavenliness of honey has always been a no-brainer. but what about jam?! i'm not overflowing with childhood memories of the condiment. i remember treasuring the jars after we finished them off as a family (was that the reason i ate from them in the first place?!), and using them for drinking lemonade or collecting stones. but what was in the jars before i turned them into vases... can't really remember. still, it's a condiment people seem to love! and jams and jellies are in no short supply in german supermarkets and organic shops. so i figured there must be something i was missing. indeed, it seemed like about time that i get up close and personal with this morning spread, to spare my future children the quarter life jam crisis i now found myself in.peaches, a few empty jars, and a packet of pectin were all that needed to be picked up at the supermarket. the lemon juice and sugar were already in the cupboards. my afternoon was cleared. jam time was upon me.i have to admit that the process of making the jam was less than relaxing for a first-timer. the steps weren't particularly demanding, but there are certainly a lot of them. and the first one, involving sterilizing the jars in boiling water (and wondering if glass is going to explode all over your face in the process) isn't the most relaxing way to kick off an afternoon. but once you cross that bridge, it's pretty smooth sailing. with this recipe, you end up with about 4 medium sized jars of jam, 2 of which i gave away as gifts, and 2 of which have almost been completely devoured by my roommate, who has apparently adopted a elimination diet that involves eliminating all other foods except jam. as the pictures suggest, the jam turned out very chunky. this is because i did not fully puree it. at first, i was disappointed by its chunkiness - until i tasted it! it's delicious, and the chunks really remind you that you're consuming fruit. still, if you'd like a less chunky (and thereby more attractive) version, just make sure to completely cream the peaches in the blender before cooking them with the sugar and pectin. i also made what was called a "low sugar" version, which, quite honestly, is plenty sweet (though i note alternative measurements in the recipe below, in case you'd like to take a more sugary route). not only am i pleased with the how well the jam turned out, but knowing how much effort goes into making just one jar has definitely sparked a newfound appreciation of it! i'm not sure if jam is ever going to hold the same place in my heart as honey - but for now, i'll be letting the two of them split my piece of toast down the middle... at least until i figure out how to make homemade almond butter.

homemade peach jam

5 pints ripe peaches (about 10 cups)
¼ cup juice of a lemon
½ cup water
4.5 cups sugar (you can use up to 7 cups, depending on your preference for sweetness)
2 packets pectin
4 empty jars with lids

the first step is sterilize the jars. give them a good wash by hand or in the dishwasher, and then bring your biggest pot of water to a boil. drop an open jar (or 2 or 3, depending on how much room you have) in there and let boil for 10 minutes. remove jars and place in another pot of hot water until ready for use. to sanitize the lids, place them in a pot of hot, but not boiling water for 5 minutes. once all of your jars and lids are sanitized, it’s time to start jammin’!

wash the peaches. you’ll have to peel them, and the easiest way to do that is by placing them for 60 seconds in a pot of boiling water. remove using a slotted spoon and placed in a bowl of ice (or just very cold) water. the skins will slide right off if they peaches are ripe! if they aren’t ripe, then you’ll need to boil them slightly longer.

peel off the skins, remove the pits and other mushy brown spots, and chop finely. add them to a large bowl and mush them up by hand or using a blender or hand mixer. i’d recommend pureeing them as much as possible, leaving some small chunks in there for a kick. to prevent them from browning, add ¼ cup lemon juice to the bowl and give it a good stir to let the peaches absorb the juice.

grab your sugar and pectin. combine the pectin packets with ¼ cup sugar. put the other 4.25 cups sugar in another bowl.

add the pectin mix to the peaches and place in a pot. stirring often, bring mixture to a rolling boil (the kind that cannot be stirred away). this should take about 10 minutes. add the remaining sugar and bring it back to a boil. then boil it hard for 1 minute.

fill the jars with the mixture and seal them tight. at this point, you can add them back to a pot of boiling water to seal them for shelving. i didn’t do this – meaning they will last about a month in the fridge.

let jars sit in a dry place and cool at least 3 hours. place in fridge. enjoy!