A few weeks ago I had some peaches sitting on the counter in danger of over ripening. Jam was the obvious solution. Jan thought it was “too sweet.” This flaw did not stop her from eating the entire jar in two weeks.
They had white peaches at the farmer’s market this week. We have been very fond of white peaches since our time in China, but they are a very delicate, short-seasoned fruit. I decided to tweak my jam recipe and preserve the flavors of Summer.
Looking at peach jam recipes on-line, many of them include only the fruit and massive amounts of sugar. Others recipes include a bit of lemon juice or commercial pectin. Being a diabetic, I needed to make my jam low sugar. Also, if you use the lemon zest, as well as the juice, you may skip using commercial pectin.
Finally, I decided to risk the whole batch and try something really radical. Even a tiny bit of salt activates the taste buds and enhances the flavor of your food. Salt also release the juices within fruits cells. I thought that an eighth of a teaspoon of salt in five cups of fruit would not make it taste “salty,” but might turn into a “secret ingredient.”
Karl’s White Peach Jam
9 white peaches (about 5 cups)
pinch Kosher salt
2 ½ cups sugar, separate uses
½ cup water
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
1. Sterilize 4 (12 oz.) canning jars and lids.
2. Rinse, peel and seed the peaches.
Tip: I have found that a vegetable peeler is very effective at removing the peach skins. Start at the base and work toward the stem. Slice the peach from top to bottom and give the knife a twist—this will split the peach neatly in half. Remove the pit, but leave the stringy “reddish” flesh around it—most of your jam’s rosy color comes from this flesh.
Note: I have tried blanching the fruit, but even several minutes in the hot water did not loosen the skins enough to make them easy to remove.
3. Slice each peach half into medium small pieces.
Tip: I take three cuts from top to bottom parallel to the equator. I rotate the fruit 90 degrees and then make 8-10 cuts to dice the fruit.
4. Put the peaches in your jam pot and sprinkle the salt and half a cup of sugar over them, toss gently to mix.
Tip: The salt and sugar will break down the cell walls and draw out the juices from the fruit.
5. Let the peaches sit, tossing occasionally to redistribute the sugar syrup, for ½-1 hour.
Tip: After the fruit have macerated to your liking, proceed to the next step.
6. Zest the lemon and place the zest in a large pot.
Tip: My old zester had very fine blades. It took off just very fine bits of the zest and left all of the pith. My new zester cuts much deeper and takes fine shreds of zest and pith. In this case, this is important, because you need the pith for the pectin within. However, I did not want strings of peel in my jam. I minced the zest strips as finely as I could.
7. Juice half the lemon and add it and the water to the pot.
Tip: The lemon juice prevents your jam from oxidizing and turning dark.
Note: While one quarter cup of liquid does not seem like enough, when the sugar begins to melt it will become evident that that is all you really need.
8. Bring the fruit mixture to a boil and stir in the remaining two cups of sugar.
9. Cook the fruit and sugar over medium low heat for 10 minutes.
10. After ten minutes use a potato masher, or an immersion blender, to break up some of the fruit pieces.
Tip: You want some chunks of fruit in your jam, but to spread nicely you want most of it completely broken down.
11. Simmer the jam until it starts to jell to your liking, this can be anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour—depending on how juicy your fruit was and exactly how high you have your heat.
Tip: Take a spoon of the juice and place on a plate next to an ice cube. After a few minutes pour the juice back into the pot. When the juice flows off in a sheet—rather than a thin stream— the jam is ready.
Note: Keep a close eye on your jam pot. A high heat may be quicker, but jam will boil over with little warning.
12. Pour the peach jam into sterilized jars and loose tighten the lids.
Tip: If you have more than the jars will hold put any extra in the bowl to be consumed immediately—don’t worry there will be plenty of volunteers to do this.
Note: Put the lids on the jars and tighten them down. Back the lids off about an eight of a turn so that they are “tight/loose.” This allows the air to escape—when you reheat the jars in a water bath—but does not let the water leak into the jars.
13. Place the jam jars in a water bath and boil for 20-30 minutes.
14. Remove the jars and fully tighten the lids.
15. Allow them to cool completely before storing.
Tip: The jam should last for a year on a pantry shelf, but you will be lucky if it sees the next month.
Note: This recipe makes about 3+ 12 oz. jars of jam.