Thursday, August 2, 2012

Homemade Peach Jam

It is too hot to make jam but I did it anyway!  I couldn't bear the thought of not having peach jam this winter and the peaches won't wait until it cools down.  Here's a list of what you need to make my peach jam.

fresh, ripe peaches - about nine or ten
one box of NO SUGAR NEEDED Pectin.  Ball makes a great one.
Canning supplies
   *jars (nine jelly jars or five pint jars)
   *lids and rings
   * canner with rack OR large pot with washcloth on the bottom
   * jar tongs, funnel, ladle and a heat resistant spoon or spatula
Lemon Juice

Start by preparing your fruit.  Pick ripe peaches.
Peel them and chop them fine.  I use a food processor.   Measure exactly four cups of fruit.

Remember how I said that I'm not the exact type of person and I rarely measure?  This is one of those times I do.  If you aren't pretty close, if not exact, your jam won't set up.  That, my friends, is frustrating!

Dump the fruit into a pot and add the entire box of pectin and two tablespoons of lemon juice.  Stir.

At this point I fill up my canner with water and make sure the rack is in it.  You can always use a large pot with a washcloth on the bottom to act as a canner if you don't have one.  You don't want your jars sitting directly on the pot's bottom, hence the washcloth.  I also put my lids in a pot of water and put it on the burner on high.  When it just reaches the boil, I turn it off and let it sit.

Before heating your fruit, add 1 3/4 cup of liquid.  You can add water, orange juice, unsweetened apple or unsweetened white grape juice, peach nectar or some other fruit juice of your choice.  It should be unsweetened and somehow compliment your peaches.  Raspberry would be nice.  Tomato would not.

I used water.

Turn your heat on and bring to a boil.  Stir, stir, stir!  You don't want it to scorch on the bottom.  Keep the boil on for one minute.

At this point you can add your sweetener.  I like plain old sugar.  You can use honey, Splenda, Stevia or whatever you would like.  Since I don't use honey or anything artificial, I can't tell how much to use.  If you are using sugar, I'd suggest two cups.

Bring it back to a boil and time the boil for three minutes.

At the end of three minutes, pull it off the heat and fill your jars.  I keep my jars warm in a sink of hot water until right before I need to use them.  This helps so that I don't have any breakage.  Fill to the bottom of the bottom band.  You should have at least a half an inch left to the top.  Don't overfill or you will have overflow.

Put your lid on and then put your ring on finger tip tight.  What this means is that you turn the ring until you just BARELY get some resistance.  You don't want to crank it on but you don't want it too loose, either.  The air needs a way to escape the ring and if you crank it on, it can't get out.  If it's too loose the boiling water bath will jiggle it off and you will end up with water in your jam.

By this time your pot of water should be just barely starting to boil.  Put your jars in the pot and make sure the water level is two inches OVER the top of the jars.  Bring it to a boil and time the boil for fifteen minutes.

At the end of fifteen minutes, use your jar tongs and remove from the water.  Put the jars on a towel - never directly on your counter.  The glass will shatter if you do that!  Your jars will start sealing - you will hear popping noises.  This is normal and good!

Let them cool completely.  Your jam will set up sometime in the next four days.  Don't worry if it's still a bit runny looking after they cool.  I don't know why but sometime certain fruits take a bit longer.

Enjoy!  These will store on a shelf for a year!

Some tips:

- People who don't use pectin are awesome unless they condemn you for using pectin.  Then they are snobs.  I don't like to use a lot of sugar in my jams - I like to taste the fruit - and I can't get a decent texture without pectin.  My advise:  Use pectin.

- If you are starting out with canning, invest in a canning tool kit.  They're fairly inexpensive and it's cheaper than purchasing everything separate.   Check out Walmart or online.

- Don't use a granite-ware canner if you have a glass top stove.  They melt to your stove top.  Not good.  I bought a stainless steel stock pot and put my rack inside that.  This would be even better but I'm too darn cheap to buy it:
- Use a heat resistant silicone spatula or spoon when you make jams.  I melted a plastic spoon in a batch of strawberry jam and had to toss the entire batch.

- Have fun!  Follow directions and make sure to add lemon juice when directed.  The additional acid is needed to make the jam set AND to make it shelf stable.

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