Kind of peach crazy around here just now. End of season in NY, and since all our local tomatoes went bust thanks to Hurricane Irene, prior and subsequent amounts of heavy rain we’ve endured, I felt the need to buy a bushel of something! (1/2 bushel, actually).
Outside of tropical fruits, best eaten in Costa Rica, and persimmons, my favorite local fruit are peaches, I ‘put up’ as many as I can. That would be about 30 lbs so far. I slice and freeze, make jam, chutney and this year I roasted some which, at the request of my husband, who can’t eat stone fruits fresh, I canned in a light honey syrup. I’m going back for more peaches.
There is a lot of talk about peeling peaches before processing them. As far as I can tell it’s a textural thing, not wanting pieces of skin in a peach jam, or floating in your canned peach slices ( this goes for any fruit that peeling is suggested for), I determine this to be a personal preference, and I don’t mind skin one bit. I like the hue it adds to my peach creations. However, if you decide to peel yours, here is the easiest way to do it;
Put a pot of water on your stove to boil. Fill a large bowl with 8 cups cold water and, if canning peach halves, one of the following colour preserving natural additives; 1/2 tsp ascorbic acid crystals or 1500 mg crushed vit C tablets. 1/2 tsp citric acid, or 1/3 cup lemon juice. The oxidation does not matter if you are making jam or chutney with the peaches.
Ready your peaches by washing gently, then cut an X into the bottom of each one. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, add peaches to simmering water for 15 seconds, lift out and place into bath of cold water (with anti-oxidation additives if necessary) to stop the cooking process. Peel the skins off, set them aside to create something else if you wish ( as I never peel, I don’t have recipes for them, but there are lots of ideas out there!). At this point cut your peaches according to the recipe you are following.
Peach Bourbon Jam
4 lbs Peaches, washed, pitted and rough chopped (peeled if desired)
4 cups organic sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup good Bourbon
1 tsp real vanilla (make your own!)
tiny pinch salt (if desired, I like the way it plays on the Bourbon)
As I have said in past posts, I usually let my chopped fruit macerate with the sugar for hours before making the jam, sometimes overnight (sometime for 2 or 3 days in the fridge!). I do this because the juices release from the fruit, making it break down quicker in cooking. You can skip this step, it will be fine, great, terrific! If you have lots of fruit to use and not enough time, this is a way to ease the tasks.
Bring peaches, sugar and lemon juice to a boil over medium heat. Let simmer, stirring and mashing with a potato masher, frequently, until it begins to thicken and does not burn. Once thickening happens, after 20 minutes, start checking the temperature (we want 220*, gel set temp) or testing for set point with frozen plate/ spoon method. Once set is achieved, add bourbon and vanilla, it will bubble madly, stir well, let boil a few more minutes then remove from heat.
Process in clean hot jars, with properly prepared lids, in boiling water canner for 10 minutes. Turn heat off, leave lid on, for another 5 minutes, this ensures a good seal. Let rest undisturbed for 12-24 hours. Makes 7-8 8oz jars with a bit left over to eat now with cheddar cheese. mm.