Friday, August 12, 2011

Summer in a Jar - Peach Jam

It has been a year since my first blog post… so Happy Birthday, InFoodITrust!!!  God knows, I learned a lot this year.  For example, I learned you can cook a great meal and not be able to post it because the pictures are terrible.  I learned that you actually have to remember or write down the recipes as you cook, otherwise you look really, really stupid when your recipes don’t work.    I learned that a large, elaborate cooking project like Thanksgiving or a big party is not the best material for the blog.  By the time you get around to plating and taking pictures, your kitchen is a mess and you are not quite sober, so all that hard work looks terrible on film.  I also learned that even if I try really, really hard, I will never post everything I cook and I will never cook everything I want to… so no pressure…
Now back to summer.  There comes a day in a life of every peach, when it will go from perfectly juicy and ripe, to spoiled.  You have to head off that moment and give that perfectly ripe peach the destiny it really deserves, which to become jam. 

This time of the year is peach time in my house.  We go peach picking and sort of loose ourselves in the orchard.  We get seduced by this sexy fruit, by its fragrance, fuzzy skin and sunset colors. 

We lose our heads and over pick.  By a lot.  

Way more than the four of us can ever eat, without ending up in the ER.  This means I will be stuck with 40 pounds of peaches, which will begin to spoil in a few days, I will have to get really creative.

So, this is how peach cheesecakes are born, along with various salads with peaches, and sauces with peaches( I have a great peach and chili sauce I will post one of these days), I tried to make peach bread once ( did not work out).  But honestly, all these creative ways do not consume the amount of fruit I need, I still have way too much, beginning to go dangerously soft.  So, jam it is.  I will be honest, I hate making jams.  I love eating them, cooking with them, even looking at the pretty colors in the jars, but I hate making them.  They take long time, require you to stand by the stove and babysit them so they do not over boil, and will still do so, the second you turn around.  They make a mess, no matter how cleanly you are working, every surface will be sticky and attract every ant in you state, no matter how many time you wash them.  You will spill hot jam somewhere on your body and you will always burn your fingers handling the jars, but it is all worth it in the end.  When you pop that can open later and spread a thin layer onto crusty buttered bread… well, let’s just say, a little suffering makes it so much better.
I had a ridiculous amount of fruit and ended up with way more jam than I need, running out of jars, but I am sure I can make a few folks happy by giving it away, on the condition of returned jars of course.
Peach Jam
*** This jam needs to be refrigerated.
6 cups of ripe peaches cut up as small or large as you like (I prefer a chunkier jam)
4 cups of sugar
Julice of 3 lemons
1 packet of original pectin ( optional, see Note)

Combine the peaches, sugar and lemon juice and bring to a rolling boil.  Turn down the heat and simmer.  Make sure the mixture does not over boil and skim the foam from the surface periodically or you will not end up with clear jam.   The mixture should be reduced until it begins to “Gel”, which is anywhere between 235F and 245F.  Don’t guess, use the thermometer.  When the temperature of 235F is reached you can begin testing by putting a few drops onto a frozen plate.  If the mixture looks like gel, and begins to wrinkle at the surface, you jam is ready.
Note:  If patience is not your virtue, you can add pectin powder to your jam any time after 220F mark.  Boil for a few minutes and you are ready to jar.
Run your jars either under boiling water or through the hottest cycle of your dishwasher.  Do not overfill the jars and seal them tightly.  Refrigerate the jam, it will keep for a few weeks at least, sometimes much longer.

Now if this is not summer in jar, I don’t know what is!

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