When I entered the neighborhood Whole Foods a few weeks back after a long break from the store, the first sight that welcomed me was a huge mound of peaches from a local farm. I picked up a couple of pounds of the golden fruit even before realized it. I do that with almost any fruit in season, but in reality I am not a fruit eater. But pretty fruit are hard to pass up so I buy them in the hopes that they will continue to tempt me when I take them home. I've tried hard and failed to set a routine of having fruit at least once a day. For a few weeks, I made smoothies for breakfast every day & it worked like a charm. A handful of oats nuked for 30secs whizzed up with an assortment of fruits and a sumptuous breakfast is ready to be devoured. But the attraction eventually waned out and I had to find another way to use up the gorgeous fruits that fill the summer months.
Jams are a great way of preserving ripe fruits and extending their shelf life. Even better when you can make it at home tweaking it to your liking. Making small batches at a time takes the worry out of the whole canning process too. So I decided to turn the bounty of peaches into jam. The idea of toast and jam for breakfast though isn't very appealing to me, too sweet. In search of spice I also bought a jar of jalapeno jam once and it was surprisingly good! So when I made jam at home it was obvious that I would find ways to spice things up a bit.
I've been making small batches of strawberry jam over the last two years and it has been absolutely rewarding to make jam at home. Strawberries must be one of the easiest to turn into jam and I've successfully paired them with tart rhubarb, spicy black peppercorns and ripe mangoes. Now it was surely the turn of the peaches to get into a canning jar. When selecting peaches, or any fruit for that matter for a jam, don't worry about appearances, a few bruised fruit will taste just as fine or even better. If you can score a bargain on the ugly fruit, then perfect. The most important thing is to make sure they are ripe, smell fragrant and are seasonal fruit.
With strawberry jam I tried red pepper flakes and crushed black pepper in separate batches and the black pepper won hands down. The occasional bite of pepper in the ham makes it really delicious and brings out the flavor of the fruit too. The same idea did not sound good with peaches so while perusing through the vast number of odds and ends in my pantry my eyes fell upon a jar of crystallized ginger. I love to chew on these sugary bits of ginger when my taste buds need to come alive after a bad cold or heavy meal. I knew I had found the perfect spice agent to pair up with the juicy peaches on hand.
I used pectin for the first batch of strawberry jam but realized that I could easily skip that step for them. A little citrus juice, sugar and a little time on the stove will turn them into a nice thick jam. With peaches I wanted to retain the freshness and delicate flavor in the fruit and did not want to cook them longer than needed to soften them. Adding pectin immediately cuts down the cooking time giving you a jam that has a pure concentrated flavor of the fresh fruit. The amount of pectin you need depends on the brand/type of pectin available. So carefully read through the instructions and use the amount needed accordingly.
Peach Jam with Crystallized GingerServing: 2 pintsIngredients:
Prep time: 30mins
Cooking time: 30mins
- 5 - Peaches, washed (~ 2 cups)
- 1.5 cups - Sugar (depends on the fruit)
- 1.5 Tbsp -Crystallized ginger, finely diced
- 1 cup - Mango chunks (optional)
- 1 tsp - Orange zest
- 1/4 cup - Orange juice
- Pectin - as per packet instructions
- pinch of salt
Note: This recipe makes a mildly sweet jam. The peaches were exceptionally sweet and the mango added to the sweetness. Make sure to taste the fruit before you add any sugar, if the fruit is sweet enough you can reduce the amount of additional sugar needed.
- Bring water to a boil and blanch the peaches for about 30-40secs to loosen the peel and immediately drop them into ice water. You don't want to cook them at this stage. When cool to handle, peel off the skins, they should easily pull away from the fruit. Discard the pit and give the pulp a rough chop.
- In a non-reactive pot, add all your ingredients except the pectin and bring the mixture to a boil. Taste test and add more sugar/ginger to your liking.
- Follow the instructions for the pectin based on the brand. I tend to use about 3/4 the quantity suggested because I don't like the jam to have a thick jelly like consistency.
- Once the fruit mixture returns to a boil turn off the heat. Skim any foam that appears on the surface to get a clear jam.
- Allow the jam to cool completely, transfer to dry, airtight containers and store in the refrigerator. If making a larger batch, be sure to sterilize your jars appropriately for canning. I usually make smaller batches and run mason jars through a dish washing cycle with heat before I use them.
- I used Pomona's Universal Pectin, it comes in powder form along with calcium powder that is used to activate the pectin.
- flavoring ideas- cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, apricot chunks...
Peaches work wonderfully in this preparation, the jam has a stronger peach flavor that the fruit themselves. Since you end up concentrating the flavor of the fruit you are left with the very best that the fruit has to offer. The orange zest brightens the flavor of the entire jam and brings out the flavor in the fruit. The tiny bits of ginger that hit you add another dimension and break the sweetness in the jam. On a slice of freshly baked bread this jam is a joy to eat. I'm considering making jam cookies and tarts to show off this jam, but since I've made this whenever I crave something sweet after a meal I find myself reaching out for a spoonful of peach jam. Do try it out and let me know if you have a favorite jar recipe or combination.
I realized that this is a perfect entry to the Veggie/Fruit a month event created by Priya and hosted by Susan this month to showcase lovely Peaches. Looking forward to the numerous recipe ideas that will be coming our way in the round-up! Need to stock up on peaches again.