(Original Post Date: May 23, 2010)
My friend Connie and her husband Toan have a peach tree in their backyard – a tree which produces tons and tons of peaches each spring and summer – all of which end up falling to the ground and rotting into a huge sticky mess (for Toan to clean up). For the past year, Toan has stopped fertilizing the tree in the hope that it would reduce the copious amounts of fruit for him to shovel up off the ground. This spring… no such luck for him! The peaches are still growing in extraordinary amounts – they only ended up a little smaller in size this year.
Connie and Toan gave me a huge bag of mini-peaches last week. This seemed like a good time to make some summery peach jam. I know that jam making seems like a difficult task – it requires chopping and peeling fruit, boiling it up into a sugary concoction, sterilizing jars, and then sealing them in a water bath – but really, it’s fairly easy. You don’t even need any fancy canning equipment – just some clean jars, new lids (never reuse canning lids), and a big enough pot.
I used to find canning jars (in packs of 12) at Walmart, but it seems they no longer carry them. (They don’t carry fabric at Walmart anymore either, so it looks like I’ll probably never have need to set foot in a Walmart store again…) To my surprise, I found a nice selection of canning jars at my local Albertson’s grocery store. Ball and Kerr are the two brands that make reusable canning jars. If you can’t find them at your local grocery store, you can definitely find them online. Pectin can usually be found in jello pudding sized boxes in the baking aisle of your supermarket.
Mika’s Peach Jam:
- 2.5 pounds ripe peaches
- one 1.75 oz. packet dry pectin (sure jell)
- 2 whole star anise
- 4 T. apple cider vinegar
- 3 c. sugar
- 1/2 c. water
- six half-pint canning jars with rings and new lids
- very large stock pot
- round metal rack to fit in bottom of pot
- metal tongs
1. Place all the hardware (except for the new lids) into the stock pot, with the metal rack on the bottom so that the jars do not touch the pot bottom. (If you don’t have a metal rack, you can use a large dish towel instead). Add water to cover all the hardware, bring to a boil. You must boil these (at a full boil) for 10 minutes to sterilize the jars and equipment properly. Turn off the heat, and leave the hardware in the hot water until you are almost ready to can. (Do this right before you make the jam so that the water is still very hot by the time you need to sterilize the lids.)
2. Prepare the peaches. Bring another pot of water to boil, dunk several peaches for 45 seconds, then remove and plunge into an ice bath. The skins should easily wipe off. Slice and pit the peaches, and set the fruit aside. You should have approximately 2 pounds of peeled, sliced peaches.
3. Place the sliced peaches in a large pot with the pectin, anise, and vinegar. Bring to a boil while mashing down the peaches with a potato masher or mallet. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, occasionally mashing down the peaches. Remove the anise pieces.
4. Add the sugar and water, and bring back to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, then turn off the heat.
5. By now, your hardware should be sterilized. Add the lids to the hot water, and allow to sterilize for 5 minutes. Remove the jars and rings to a clean towel with the sterilized tongs.
6. Use the sterilized ladle to pour hot jam into each jar, leaving about a 1/3 to 1/2 inch head space. Wipe the rims with a wet paper towel. Fish out the lids from the hot water and place on top of each jar, then screw the rings down and tighten on the hot jar. (Don’t make the lids too tight – you want to be able to remove the rings later).
7. Using the tongs, place the hot jam-packed and sealed jars back into the hot water bath, making sure that at least 1 inch of water covers the top of the jars. Bring the water back to a boil. (Before the water boils, extra air will escape from the jars – don’t mistake this for boiling water.) You will want to boil the jars for at least 10 minutes. If you are at 3,000-6,000 ft above sea level, process for 15 minutes. If you are at 6,000-8,000 ft above sea level, process for 20 minutes. (Not sure of your elevation? Google search your city or zipcode + elevation, and you should be able to find out.)
8. Remove the jars (carefully) from the hot water, and place on a clean towel to cool. You may hear popping sounds coming from the jars while they cool – this is the vacuum being created by the canning process. Allow the jars to cool and sit for 24 hours on the counter. Remove the rings and check the seals. The seal should be suctioned onto the jar tightly, and the jar lid should not make a popping or clicking sound when you press down on it.
9. Store unopened jars in a cool dark pantry. Once opened, refrigerate.