Is it just me or is that the prettiest jam you’ve ever seen?? It seems like I’ve been saying that a lot lately, but seriously, I’m just so impressed that I did that! To me, jam has always been one of those things that your grandmother makes (or in my case, my Aunt Ruth) and sends you home with when you come to visit. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when that happens – my Aunt Ruth makes the world’s best pepper jelly – but I had this vague inclination that canning was this mysterious process that required all sorts of strange equipment and days and days of boiling and stirring and stuff. Well rest assured everyone – canning is quite easy, and actually fun! A few weeks ago, I spent a day with my Aunt Ruth learning how to make jelly, and since then I’ve been dying to try it on my own. So when I had to find something to do with these peaches, I decided to give it a try. I used a combination of two recipes, one that came with the pectin I bought, and one from here, but really I just sort of winged it. So here goes.
I should probably tell you that peaches are my favorite fruit (except when strawberries are in season, but that’s beside the point). I live in Georgia (the Peach State!) and we always have an abundance of beautiful, fragrant peaches in the supermarkets come summer time. So when the canning bug hit me, I only had to look at the overflowing fruit bowl in my kitchen to find inspiration. I bought a “Home Canning Discovery Kit” that came with 3 jars, and a basket-type device to lower/lift them from the water, but this ”canning supplies” kit is what I’d really recommend, or something similar. There are a variety of supply kits you can purchase, but the special tongs are very helpful when arranging your jars in the boiling water, and the little magnet that you stick down in the pot to get your lids out is indispensable.
So you always start out by washing your jars and lids out really well in soapy water and rinsing them. Then you put them in a large pot that is deep enough for the jars to be covered by about an inch or so of water. You bring the water to a boil, and once it was boiling happily, I just turned it off and let them sit.
The basic canning instructions that came with my jars really just listed the optimum ratio of sugar to fruit, and gave very basic recipes, so I did a little looking in the blog community and found this jewel: Food in Jars. This is an excellent canning blog, and one I will probably continue to refer to. She had a recipe for peach jam that included cinnamon and nutmeg, which really intrigued me, so I decided to go with that. I only had 4 jars, and no idea at all how much fruit to use to fill them, so I just used my basic instructions to get an idea of amounts, and the Food in Jars recipe as sort of inspiration for the seasonings.
I started out using 9 medium sized peaches and 3 cups of sugar, which is what my instructions said would approximately fill my 4 jars. I peeled and chopped my peaches, put them and the sugar in a large heavy-bottomed pot, and brought them to a boil. I did have a little hiccup at this point – I tasted them, and they were so syrupy sweet that I, a lifelong sweet-tooth and dessert addict, could barely stand to eat them. So I turned them down to a simmer and ran back to my cutting board for 2 more peaches, one of which was huge – as big as two of my others. I prepared them as quickly as I could and threw them in the pot, hoping to dilute the sugar a little. (I have no idea if that worked or not. I know that the sweetness of the fruits will vary, so maybe I just had super sweet peaches, or maybe I just can’t measure and added way more sugar than I thought I did, but either way, it turned out wonderfully.) Both of my recipes called for lemon juice, and the Food in Jars recipe called for the zest as well as the juice, but I had no lemons, and only a little tiny bit left of my bottled lemon juice, so here I improvised. I had two naval oranges that got left out of a pitcher of sangria (YUM is all I can say about the sangria – more later.) so I zested one of them, and juiced it as well, and added that, along with about a 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice. I think I’ll probably do that on purpose next time since it turned out so well. There was just a little orange-y, citrus-y flavor in the jam that I think made it very unique – I really loved it.
Back to the recipe: After I added my “emergency fix-it” peaches and the orange juice, I also added the cinnamon and nutmeg from the Food in Jars recipe and boiled that pretty vigorously for about 15 minutes. At this point, if your fruit is still quite chunky, you can use an immersion blender or a potato masher to squish it up a little. It really depends on how you like your jam – I like mine a little chunky, so I get the texture of the fruit, but that’s just me. I mashed mine up a little, but didn’t really spend too much time on it. After that I added the pectin and boiled for about 5-6 more minutes. Then I pulled my jars out of their water bath and poured the jam in (here again that canning kit would have come in very handy, since it comes with a funnel the exact size of a standard jar). I set my jars on a rimmed baking sheet so I wouldn’t have to worry about my counters. Then you wipe the rims – (be careful! Hot!) and screw the lids on tight. You put them back in the hot water bath for about 10 minutes, then take them out and let them cool. They should be all sealed up. Your jars should have an indicator button on the top that “pops” when you open the jar – if it is “popped” now, it means they haven’t sealed. I have no idea what to do to fix that, or what causes them not to seal, but if I find out, I’ll let you know.
And that is that, my friend. Peach Orange Cinnamon Nutmeg Jam. The coolest thing I’ve ever made. And Delicious, with a capitol D, if I do say so myself. The spices were a great addition – they really gave the jam a depth of flavor that was just completely unexpected – at least to me. I think of jam as being the flavor of the fruit that it’s made from and not much else, but this was a whole medley of flavors that mingled and combined to make the perfect lightly-spiced, summery fruit spread. Amazing what wonders can come from those simple little glass jars.
Please, Please! If you have canning advice, share it with me! I’m very inexperienced, but I would love to learn all of your little tips and tricks! Comment, or e-mail me at girlwithaskilletATgmailDOTcom.
The recipe inspired by Food in Jars
10-11 medium peaches, peeled and chopped
3 cups sugar, or to taste
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice, or to taste
1 orange, zested and juiced
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 box no sugar added pectin (I used Ball brand, like the jars) – see note
- Fill a large pot with water and add jars and lids. Bring to boil, making sure that jars are completely submerged. Once boiling, turn off heat and let sit until needed.
- Combine fruit and sugar in a 6-8 quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat. Stir to blend, and bring to a boil. Add lemon juice, orange zest and juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg and boil vigorously for 15 minutes. If the fruit is still very chunky you can use an immersion blender or a potato masher to break it down to your preferred consistency.
- Add pectin and boil for 5 minutes more.
- Remove jars from water bath and place on rimmed baking sheet. Being very careful of splatters, pour the hot jam into the jars, leaving a half inch or so of clearance at the top.
- Wipe jar rims with a clean cloth and screw lids on tightly.
- Place jars back into water bath for about 10 more minutes then remove and let cool.
- Eat and Enjoy!