Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pick a peck of peaches...this is NOT a paid advertisement!

Mmmmm...homemade JAM! Is there anything better? I think not, especially when you get to make it with Mom and fruit from your own trees. We have been making lots of jam lately since we are in a "good" year with our peach tree. A few years ago, I discovered a great pectin that does not require tons of white sugar to get a good tasting jam.

I don't know about you, but putting four cups of white sugar into six cups of fruit did not sound good to me at all. So I did some research on my trusty computer (don't you love how easy it is to get info these days?!?...sorry - rabbit trail) and found that there is a product called Pomona's Universal Pectin. Not only can you use honey to sweeten your jam (I mean really, don't we want to actually TASTE the FRUIT?!?), but you don't need much sweetener at all. In a 'batch' (four cups prepared peaches, for example) you can use as little as 1/2 C honey! We have been very happy with the results so far, and am super glad I found this great product.

Another benefit of Pomona's Pectin is that you can double, triple, even quadruple your batch of jam with no ill side affects, unlike the typical pectins you might use. Because the typical pectins can easily overcook, and so not thicken as they are supposed to, you can only mix up one batch of jam at a time, which can really slow down the process. And when you head out to pick a peck of peaches at 4:30 pm, that can be super handy, eh Mom?

Honey Peach Jam

10-12 fresh, ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
1 box Pomona's Universal Pectin (I found mine at Vitamin Cottage)
1/4 C lemon juice (I use the good stuff: Santa Cruz Organic Pure Lemon Juice
1/2 C honey (I love to use local honey for the immune boosting properties)
5-6 clean sterilized pint jars with rings and new lids

Wash and rinse your jars. I prefer pint jars (or smaller) for my jams. Place them on a baking sheet in the oven at 225 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn off the oven and leave the jars there. This will sterilize them and keep them warm and ready to be filled.

Wash rings, and place lids in a little pot, covered with water. Bring water to a boil, then set aside.

Get your hot water bath ready. You will need a pot with a lid that is large enough to place the jars in and still be able to cover them with one inch of water. Bring water to a boil. I found a dark blue enamel hot water bath at a yard sale for a few dollars and it included a rack (a must as far as I am concerned), a wide-mouth funnel, and the tongs for pulling the jars out.

If your peaches are very ripe, you can just slip the peels off pretty easily. If the skins are on tight, you will need to blanch them to get the skin off. Here's how: http://www.ehow.com/how_2096906_peel-peach.html (No need to remake the wheel, right?)

Halve the peach, take the pit out and slice the peach. You can then hand chop the peaches or pulse them in the food processor, being careful to leave the consistency somewhat chunky, but even. You want to end up with 4 cups of chopped peaches.

The peaches in the back bowl are sliced and ready to go into the food processor.

Mix up the calcium water according to the directions in the Pomona package. You can save what you don't use in the fridge for your next batch.

Combine 4 cups prepared peaches with 1/4 C lemon juice in a stock pot. Stir well.

Add 4 tsp calcium water, stir.

Mix cold or room temp honey (1/2 C) with 3 tsp pectin powder in a small bowl. Set aside.

Bring peach mixture slowly to a boil, then stir in honey/pectin mixture, bring back to a boil and remove from heat.

Fill jars to 1/2" of top. Wipe the top of the jar with a damp paper towel, place a lid from the little pot on top of the jar and hand tighten the ring. You want it firmly tightened, but not super tight. Never reuse lids (rings are okay to reuse, if they are not bent) as you may not get a good seal...and why would you want to go to all this trouble and not be able to line these pretty, jewel colored beauties up on the shelf?

Once all the jars are filled, place them in the hot water bath. You may need to add some water at this time to get your "one inch above the lid" coverage. If so, bring back to a boil, then cover and start timing. At our elevation (we are in the Mile High City) you will want to do the bath for 11 minutes for pint jars.

When the time is up, remove the jars from the bath, placing them on a towel. Cover the jars with a dry dish towel and let sit to cool. Hopefully, pretty quickly, you will hear the joyful pinging of the lids popping down as they seal!! And don't do like I do. I am always pressing on the tops to see if I can "help" them along. Keep getting in trouble with my Mom on that one (and I am forty....something!).

So, this is the way we are making our peach jam these days...thanks to the great directions in the Pomona packaging...I think now we need to bake a loaf of bread!

What are you canning in your kitchen this summer?