Peach Jam

31 Aug

Peach Jam

By Renea Winchester

Over the next month, during the height of the “canning season,” I invite ya’ll to join me in the kitchen as I prepare jams and “put up” our bountiful harvest. I’ll begin with Georgia’s pride and joy, the peach.

I could embark on a journey filled with peachy memories, but honestly there’s no time. My kitchen table is full of ripe peaches; they won’t last long.

Perfect Jam begins with the perfect recipe

The most important “ingredient” in this process is The Ball Blue Book Easy Guide to Tasty, Thrifty Home Canning and Freezing. Acquiring this book is high priority. Do not, repeat NOT purchase a recent edition. I prefer Edition 28 (Copyright 1966…Lithographed in U.S.A.) This edition spells syrup, “sirup” and contains recipes like grandma made. Other crucial ingredients required are: fruit, sugar, lemons, jars, lids, and patience.

Tip: This is very important. Do NOT slice all the fruit at once. I purchased a bushel of peaches believing I could “put up” the entire bushel in one day. After all, I’ve watched it done, how hard can it be? Trust me, do not slice an entire bushel of fruit at once.

Tip Two: Equally as important, do not double the recipe. Prepare one “batch” place it in glass jars, seal, clean utensils then repeat. It is remarkable how the slightest change in barometric pressure or fruit quality can affect the end product.

With this in mind, lets begin.

Step One: Preparing Fruit. Instructions inside boxes of pectin advise, “use ripe fruit free of blemishes.” It is impossible to transport fruit without at least one peach getting a “blemish.” Fruit is fragile. It will bruise. Wash the peaches then remove the “bad spots.” Slice peaches accordingly. Also, a quick word about ripeness, if peaches are very ripe (meaning soft), they will disintegrate during the boiling process, resulting in jelly, not jam. For this reason, toward the end of the cooking process, I always toss in a handful of fruit that is less-than-fully ripe.

Step Two: Slicing Fruit

Cube or slice the fruit (your preference) and place in a bowl. Immediately squeeze the juice of a lemon over the fruit.  The lemon’s acid prevents browning. I never, under and circumstance ever, crush the peaches (as instructed in some pectin recipes). Texture, of course, is a personal preference.

An Aside: At this point peach juice should be trickling down your elbow. You have my permission to lick it off.

Step Three: Should You Use Pectin?

Most fruits will jell without adding store-bought pectin. If you decide to use pectin, remember to follow the recipe inside the box. Some recipes instruct you to add the pectin first, others require that the fruit mixture be boiling before pectin is added. The order in which the pectin is added does matter. Additionally, you might want to add a thin slice of butter to prevent “foaming.” Foam isn’t harmful and can be skimmed off before jam is poured into jars.

Step Four: Waiting and Stirring

While the peach mixture is coming to a boil, now is the time to heat the jars. Place a large pot on the stove and add enough water to raise the water level to ½ an inch. Place the rings in the water (rubber side down) and place a clean glass jar on top as shown in the photo. Turn the stove eye on medium-high. Jars should become warm, but the water should not boil. Heating the jars prevents them from breaking when you add hot liquid.   Don’t forget to stir the peaches with a wooden spoon. You do not want them to stick to the bottom of the pan and scortch.

Step Five: Stirring until Boiling

When you first add the fruit to the pot it will be thick and almost dry. DO NOT ADD WATER. Sugar will adhere to the fruit and begin to liquefy as soon as the temperature increases. Carefully stir the fruit. Stirring the mixture is an important process in making any preserve. Don’t allow heavy chunks of fruit to stick to the bottom of the pot or it will burn. Ideally, you want the mixture to come to a boil slowly, which can happen anywhere between ten to twenty minutes. 

Step Six: How To Tell When Jam Is Ready. The Freezer Test

After the mixture begins to boil, you’ll notice most of the fruit liquefies. This is when I add the extra less-ripe fruit to keep the jam “chunky.”

It is important to test the jam before adding it to the jars. Using a metal spoon, remove a small amount and place the spoon in the freezer. Turn the heat down to low while the mixture cools. If the jam is ready it will feel “tacky” to the touch.

Another Aside: It is perfectly proper to lick the spoon. Just wash it before reusing.

NOTE: Some cooking will occur during the water bath process, and it can take up to two weeks for jams and jellies to “set up.” Keep that in mind when doing the freezer test to prevent jam you have to cut with a saw.

Step Seven: Filling the Jars                      

Using a glass measuring cup, fill warm jars with hot jam. Fill to the bottom rim of the jar (which allows ½ inch headspace). Wipe the jar clean. Place the hot lid on top of the jar and fasten ring tight, but not over-tight.


Step Eight: Almost Finished Return jars to a pot that has at least an inch of hot water in it. Gently place the filled jars into the pot. Slowly add more water until the jars are covered with at least ½ inch of water. Bring water to boil. Boil for ten minutes. Then remove from heat.

Step Nine: Remove From Water and Admire

Using tongs, remove jar from hot water and GENTLY place the jar—lid side up—on a towel that is on the counter. Do not store jars upside down. Most jars will seal within minutes. For any jars that do not seal. Unscrew the top, wipe the mouth of the jar clean and reprocess them in the water bath. If they still do not seal, place them in the refrigerator and eat immediately.


Posted by on August 31, 2010 in Recipes from the garden


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2 responses to “Peach Jam

  1. Cathy Johnson

    September 2, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Renea: I posted a comment today to your guest “blog” at “a good blog is hard to find” about being a serious writer. Unfortunately, I should have posted it in August because now the site has archived the August posts. So here is my comment: (Sorry, it’s a little heavy for a “peach jam” post!)

    I liked reading your blog entry because it’s so down-to-earth and centers around what I’ve learned is true about writing. It’s more about practice, practice, practice and caring and “struggling” to get the words just the way you want them than about waiting for a magical muse to descend upon you with inspiration. I’ve always liked to read and write and, like many writers, shelved my ideas because they just didn’t flow naturally or I didn’t think I had the “gift.” But the more I’ve had staff writing jobs or have written professionally or for pleasure, the better I have become at the craft.
    Currently, I am enrolled in a Masters level writing program at Kennesaw State University (near Atlanta, Georgia) and one of our assignments is to respond to a professional writer’s blog. I’m glad for the assignment because it caused me to seek out opinions of other writers and I am enjoying the fresh honesty that most writers use on their blogs and websites.
    I have always found myself more drawn toward writing nonfiction rather than fiction, but last semester I had the privilege of taking a fiction-writing class with author and professor, Tony Grooms, (author of Bombingham, a historical novel about the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s). Mr. Grooms believed that if you want to know if you’re a “real” writer, see if you can get up early every morning for a week and go straight to the computer and start writing. If you need coffee, have it made and ready for you the night before. This process captures the early morning “flow” of what your brain has been thinking about (subconsciously) all night as you put ideas down on paper or create characters (my paraphrase, his words were much better).This takes discipline and lets you know if you are really serious about writing, he says.
    Another big motivator for me has been Natalie Goldberg’s book, Wild Minds, Living the Writer’s Life. She suggests writers set an “egg timer” for ten minutes and type whatever comes to mind during that time frame, never lifting your fingers off the keyboard. Keep typing until the timer goes off. She also has great creative writing prompts and exercises to get the creative juices flowing. I’ve tried all of these things and it focuses my mind.
    I’ve also found that most people, when I tell them I like to write, or that I’m in a writing program, think there is some “magical” part of my brain that can quickly come up with the perfect word, phrase, description or style. I’ve learned writing is like working out or running. As you start moving the muscles and get into the routine, then the good feelings and positive results of moving your muscles happens.
    I read all the interesting blogs by other authors on this site. I chose this blog because it’s by Southern authors and I enjoy “all things Southern.” After reading the entries, I sat down and “roughed” out some of my own stories about the South, a place that is very much a part of my roots and who I am today. Why, just this week at KSU, our Social Sciences building was evacuated and classes were cancelled because a Civil War artifact was found on a professor’s desk. The authorities feared it might detonate! The bomb squad was called in and, in the end, all was well. In the South, sometimes the line between nonfiction and fiction is very, very thin!

  2. Aimee @ Chickenville

    January 9, 2011 at 1:18 am

    You and I have a date this Tuesday, although we’ve never met. You are ocming to my book club. I can’t wait to meet you ever since I read your book about Billy. The ironic thing is my husband and Billy are friends. He like you, stopped by one day. In fact Billy is the one who started our chicken flock.

    I love this post. I also put up peaches and peach jam this summer. I went a little crazy and made Peach Lime and Peach Rosemary Jams. I’ll bring some for you Tuesday. I am looking forward to meeting you.


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