The joys of making jam . . . mmm jam.
Oh jam. It’s hard for me to start a morning without it. That would be like starting a day without tea (or coffee, for some). You can layer it between cakes, drop spoonfuls into muffin batter, swirl it on top of brownies before you put them into the oven, add it to plain yogurt or ice cream, put some in the middle of a thumbprint cookie — or, simply eat it on toast.
I started making jam with my gramma, which wasn’t really jam making — it was actually wintertime marmalade, made with the ugliest, lumpiest Seville oranges we could find. My gramma never used a recipe; it was in her head from so many years of making it, and it always turned out perfectly. She could hand chop a rind so fine and ribbon-like that it would practically melt — giving just the slightest bit of texture. I’m spoiled now and have a hard time eating store-bought, which tastes like sweet orange jam to me.
Making jam is something I love, and I try to fill as many weekends as I can with chopping and stirring and smelling . . . the smell! A friend of mine calls it “sunshine in a jar.”
This year I decided to start with peaches. Peach jam tends to be a little more labour intensive than, say, strawberry, because you have to skin and chop the peaches. This fall I wound up with a smaller batch, because the organic fruit I picked up at the Withrow Farmer’s Market (grown in the Niagara region) was so darn good I wound up eating several of the peaches before they could make it to the pot.
There are lots of good resources in books and online that will answer your canning questions. Loosely put, fill your canning pot about halfway with water and put it on to boil. You want to make sure you have enough water to cover your jars by one to two inches, so boil a kettle to add as the water evaporates from your pot. Make sure your jars and lids are clean and sterilized. Keep them in hot water until you need them.
Start out by marking a small “X” in the bottom of each peach. Put them into a pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds or so, until the X starts to peel away, and then use a slotted spoon to transfer the peaches into a bowl of ice water. This will help loosen the skins and make them easier to peel. Use a paring knife to get any skins that don’t come off easily.
Then chop your fruit. You want it pretty small, maybe the size of a pea or a skittle.
When you have the amount you need, put it into the biggest, widest pot you have with a bit of cinnamon, water and lemon juice. Stir it nicely, and bring to a soft boil. Cook on medium-high heat until fruit is soft (10 minutes or so). You will want to stir it pretty often so it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
While stirring with one hand, slowly add the sugar with the other. You may get some neat crystals on the rim of your sugar bowl/cup from the steam coming out of your peaches. Pretty!
Bring to a boil and let boil until your mixture thickens or you get to 220°C on a candy thermometer. It took me about 20 to 30 minutes.
When it’s ready, take your pot off the heat and carefully ladle the fruit into your prepared jars. It may be helpful to use a wide-mouth funnel.
Put your lids on and place the jars in a canning rack. Slowly lower the rack into boiling water, cover and set a timer for 10 minutes.
Carefully remove the canning rack from the pot and place the hot jars on a tea towel. Listen for pops (each lid should pop down as it cools). Leave the jars for 24 hours without moving them. At that point, you can test for a proper seal by touching the top of each lid. It should not spring back, and should curve down slightly. If you don’t get a good seal on one, eat that jar first.
Label, date and enjoy your jam! Or, if you’re like me, stack them on a shelf until Christmas (or any other fancy occasion you celebrate) and give them away as gifts.
Summer Peach Jam
- 6 cups chopped peaches
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 tbsp water
- 1 tsp cinnamon
(4 x 250ml jars, 3 x 125ml jars)
* all pictures courtesy of Sarah Van Sinclair
What are your favourite jams to make?Tags:Canning, Cooking, Family, Gift, Lifestyle, Preserves, Recipe, Sarah Van Sinclair