On our ranch, Roy Ridge, in the Anderson Valley, we planted a small orchard a few years ago. It has 38 trees and they’ve just started producing. However, some forward thinking former owner of the property had previously planted a few fruit trees. One of these being a peach which produces an amazing bounty of the largest, sweetest peaches I think I’ve ever eaten – and that’s saying a lot coming from someone raised in Georgia. So, in anticipation of having the bounty of an entire orchard to preserve in the coming years, we took it upon ourselves to spend some time making jam. All in all, it was a great way to spend a Saturday morning as well as having that self-righteous feeling of being the ant instead of the grasshopper.
Just in case you need it, here’s our step-by-step:
Before starting, get your jars and lids ready. We had a few hundred mason jars left over from our wedding last year (they served as cocktail glasses) and we had kept all the lids and rims – I’m nothing if not thrifty! Run the jars through the dishwasher on an extra hot cycle to sterilize them. Once clean, line them up on the counter so they’re ready to go. Put the flat lids in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil and then turn off the heat. Keep them in the saucepan until ready to use. Remember, you can’t reuse the lids for canning – they’re a one time deal. The rims, however, you can reuse every year.
Next, turn your attention to the peaches. I blanched the peaches to remove the skin. Don’t even think of using a paring knife to peel them, it’s waste of time and peach since a good chunk of the fruit goes into the compost with the skin. Simply get a pot of water to a good boil, drop in a few peaches, pull them out a 30 seconds later and dip them in a bowl of cold water to cool. The skins will just slide right off. Cut the peaches in half and take out the pit and you’re ready to go.
Cut the peaches into small pieces. I like my jam chunky, so I left them about ½” – ¾” or so. Mix 4 cups of peaches, 3 cups of sugar, juice from 1 lemon and 1 box of pectin (I use Sure-Jell) into a large stockpot. That’s less sugar than a lot or recipes call for, but I like to taste the fruit and not the sugar, also, did I tell you how sweet these peaches were!
Bring to a boil stirring frequently for about 20-25 minutes until the mixture thickens and drips off the spoon in heavy drops. Now ladle this peachy goodness into your sterile jars. Leave around 1/4" at the top. With a pair of tongs, grab a lid, place it on top and screw the rim into place.
For this project we invested in a canner. For $19.00 from the local farm supply we got a beautiful black enamel stockpot with a wire canning insert made specifically for holding jars and lowering and raising them out of the boiling water. Definitely worth it, plus it looks like something my grandmother would have, which I love. Fill the canner with jars and slide it into the stockpot and boil for 10 minutes. Remove the canner and carefully move the jars to somewhere to cool. In a few minutes you’ll hear the re-assuring pop! of the lids as they seal with the cooling of the jam.
Believe it or not, that’s it. Super easy and works for any fruit. The next morning (okay, I lied, it was later that day) I made biscuits and we smothered them in jam. You truly can not get better than that!