August 3, 2010

Peach Jam

Peach jam, tis the season ya know.  Peaches are at their best right now and we're lucky enough to live in some great peach country.  In an effort to try not to miss out on all their yumminess, my friend Amanda and I decided it was peach jam time. 

Another friend of mine asked me not long ago to make my next jam post geared toward someone who has never tried to make jam before and who might be intimidated by it.  I have to admit, I was intimidated by it the first time too.  There are a lot of steps to follow, its very helpful to have the specialized tools to make it easier and a friend to help you.  I hope that this post will make you feel better about giving it a try.  There's nothing better than eating your own homemade jam.

Here we go, I'm going to start with some of the basics that you will need to start with. These items are helpful to have but not necessary.  You can certainly beg, steal, or borrow some items if you don't have any sitting around that would work. 

One thing you'll want to do before you even begin making the jam is run your jars through an empty dishwasher with the heat cycle on.  You want your jars to be HOT and sterile.

First: go get some peaches! We used the recipe in the "Ball Pectin" box.  This required 4 cups of finely chopped peaches.  That's about 7-9 medium peaches and it yields about 6 - half pint jars.

Second: You'll need a very large pot of boiling water - large enough to hold your 6 - half pint jars and cover the tops with water.

Third: You'll need enough rings and lids for the amount of jars you're planning to fill.  These can be purchased along with the jars, or they can be bought separately if you've already got jars at home that you are using. They'll need to go in a pot of hot water so they are both sterile and hot when your jars are filled and ready for tops.

 Fourth: This canning kit is pretty inexpensive and can be purchased at your local Wal-Mart. This is not a requirement, but it's sure handy.

  • Here are the tools inside.  The item on the left is for lifting the filled jars in and out of the hot water that you'll use to "process" the jars.
  • The item second to the left has a little magnet on the end, this is to get the hot lids and rings out of the hot water when you're ready for them.
  • The middle item is obvious and you can use for any purpose you need.  I generally don't need this item much.
  • The item second from the right is for tightening the lids to make sure they're sealed before dunking them in the hot water bath.
  • The item on the far right is for filling the jars with hot jam.  Makes clean up A LOT easier.

To begin, peel and finely chop 4 cups of peaches.  You can even chop them finer than pictured above.  We made three batches and the second one we made we chopped the peaches even smaller.

Put the chopped peaches into a large pot, much larger than you think is needed as this will boil up and take up a lot of space in your pot.

Next, add the lemon juice - this recipe called for 2 Tablespoons.

I didn't take a picture of me adding the pectin - sorry.  It's in there, trust me. Bring this up to a boil, when it's boiling so much that even stirring it won't cease the boiling, add the next ingredient.

Sugar!!  5 cups in this recipe.  Jam is not for the faint of heart, or diabetics.  That being said, Amanda and I made three total batches of jam and one of them was a sugar free variety that used fruit juice instead of sugar. I didn't take any pictures....I'm sorry.  I'll provide more details about that recipe at the end.

Now that the sugar has been added, you want to bring the mixture up to a full boil.  A full boil is when every part of the mixture is bubbling and can't be stirred down.  The picture above is NOT a full boil, but it's getting there.

Well this picture really doesn't show it very well, but you can see bubbles in the middle and you'll have to trust me that they weren't going away when I stirred them.  Now set a timer for 1 minute and let it boil hard.

Now you're ready to pour the hot jam, into the hot jars from your dishwasher.  Use a funnel to make this not as messy.  Fill the jars almost all the way to the top, leaving only about 1/4 inch.

Put one of the hot lids from the pot you've (hopefully) got simmering away, on top and then add the ring and tighten.

Now tighten the ring on very tight and after you've gotten all of them filled...

Put them in the hot tub and set your timer for 10 minutes. You'll want this water boiling for this part.

After 10 minutes remove the jars....

and place them upside-down on a towel somewhere where they can be left alone for 24 hours.

That's it!  These last for a long time, they're good as gold for at least 6 months and after that you'll want to watch them for any discolorations.  If they stay true to color they're fine, if they start to change color you'll want to dump them - but keep the jars and the rings.  The lids can't be used again.

Here is the Ball recipe we used for the sugar version:
4 cups of finely chopped fresh peaches
5 cups of sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 pkg pectin

Begin by sterilizing your jars (in an empty dishwasher or a boiling pot of water), just keep them hot until ready to use.

Get a very large pot of boiling water ready to process the jars once filled.

Put your lids and rings in another pot of boiling water, then simmer to keep hot.

Peel, remove the pit and finely chop 4 cups of peaches.

Put the peaches, pectin, and lemon juice in a large pot and bring to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling to the point where you cannot stir the boil down, add the sugar and bring back up to a hard boil.  Once at a hard boil, set your timer for 1 minute.

Fill your hot prepared jars and top with the hot lids and rings.  Make sure they are on good and tight, and place them in the boiling water for 10 minutes.

After the 10 minutes are up, move the jars to a towel or heat proof surface  - place them upside down where they can stay for 24 hours undisturbed. 

Here is the Ball recipe we used for the no-sugar version:
3 cups peeled, pitted and finely chopped peaches. About 7 medium.
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 3/4 cup unsweetened apple juice
1 pkg no-sugar pectin

The process is pretty much the same as the process above.  The only differences are, the Pectin, apple juice, and lemon juice are all added at one time before you even begin to boil the mixture.  Once it's at a hard boil, you time it for 1 minute.  I noticed that after I had put this mixture in the jars and completed the processing in hot water the mixture didn't look like it was going to "set up".  It appeared very liquidy.  After sitting for 24 hours however, it was completely set.