There’s a reason peaches are synonymous with summer and the south. They need the bright, hot southern summer sun to ripen to perfection. And the ripe fruit itself resembles a golden orb, like the one in the sky. We have sort of made it an annual summer tradition to pick peaches at a local farm here. Peaches can be a bit of an acquired taste (yes, I know people who don’t like them), but we absolutely love them!
There’s nothing quite like biting into a juicy peach. I set them out to soften on the counter for a few days so I could make a quick jam. These are Dixieland peaches, which is a freestone variety, meaning the task of pitting and chopping the dozen or so peaches for this recipe is not that much of a chore.
According to the farmer who owns the orchard, a perfectly ripe peach is a sunny yellow and not red, the insides also reflecting the yellowness of the skin, much like how the sun is traditionally depicted in a child’s drawing.
Making fruit spreads and jams is an extremely rewarding activity. The biggest attraction for me is the fact that I can control how sweet I want my jam to be. Most, if not all, brands of jam available in the market has waaay too much sugar. Even the jars I buy from our local Farmer’s Market seem to cater to a really sweet tooth. I like my jam fruity rather than sugary, retaining as much of the fruit’s natural flavor as possible.
I do not use pectin in my jam recipes, relying solely on ripe fruit, sugar, lemon juice and time to achieve the perfect jammy consistency. And trust me, it works. I also like the jam just a wee bit on the chunky side. And to kind of mimic a peaches and cream flavor, I added some vanilla. It lends a subtle yet delightful flavor to the jam. If a sweet, spicy note is what you are looking for, feel free to infuse some cinnamon in the jam.
This would make great gifts for friends and family, provided you instruct them to properly store the jar in the refrigerator. Or if you are a master at canning and preserving, you can stretch these well into the dreary winter months. That reminds me, I better buy some more peaches to freeze. What if I crave a peach milkshake in January? Or what if I have the urge to eat peach jam on my toast for Christmas? Note to self: get more peaches.
For the sake of your convenience, I will let you know how to tell if your jam is done if you do not have a candy thermometer, psychic powers, or both. I have mentioned the process previously in my other jam-making posts (here and here).
Also, it is a bit difficult to say with absolute certainty how much jam a recipe will yield, as a lot will depend on the fruit’s water content and your personal preference regarding jam consistency. I always use pretty jars I have lying around to store my homemade jams. Anything that has been recently cleaned, dry and has a tight-fitting lid will do. I used an assortment of jars this time and calculated that it added up to roughly 28 fl.oz for the amount of fruit used in this recipe.
PEACH VANILLA JAM
You will need: (Yields roughly 28 oz or a little less than 2 pints)
- Peaches – 6 heaped cups, finely chopped (you will need at least 12 medium-large fruit, must be very ripe)
- Sugar – 2 – 3 cups (depends on the fruit and personal taste)
- Lemon juice – from a large lemon
- Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
- Peel, pit and finely chop the peaches. Sprinkle sugar and lemon juice and toss to combine. (For every cup of chopped peaches, you will need half a cup of sugar. But I always begin with a bit less and used only 2 cups of sugar here. It was perfect for us, but you can add up to 3 cups for a really sweet, commercial jam-like flavor.)
- Place this mixture in a large, deep pot. Bring the mixture to a boil on medium-high heat and boil for 5 minutes. Now add vanilla extract, reduce heat and cook till jam comes together and the mixture is reduced. Stir in between and mash some (but not all) of the fruit pieces with the back of a ladle or a clean, dry potato masher. See notes for checking doneness of the jam.
- Once done, remove from heat and skim off any scum that may have collected on top. Spoon jam into clean, sterilized glass jars, cool completely, cover tightly with lid and refrigerate. Keeps well for a couple of weeks (psst… and even up to a month if used and stored properly).
- When jam is done, it will have a glossy sheen to it. You can also do the following tests to determine if jam is ready.
- Before starting, place a couple of small plates in the freezer. To check if jam is done, place a blob of hot jam mixture on the cold plate. Cool it slightly in the freezer and run a finger across it. If the mixture gels and you are able to run your finger through it without it being runny, the jam is done. Else, cook for a couple more minutes and test again.
- You can also test using the spoon method. Dip a metal spoon into the hot jam mixture and allow it to slide off the spoon. Initially, it will fall off as individual drops. When jam is done, it will slide off the spoon as one mass (or a sheet).
- Always remember that the jam will thicken when cool. So take care not to overcook it. It takes practice and patience to tell when exactly the jam is done, but you’ll get there!
Homemade jam… isn’t that the prettiest thing ever?
Now, say it with me, “Oh, peach!!”
Tell me, do you love peaches as much as I do? What do you do to stretch the peach season? Have you tried making jam? Any other peach-tastic recipes? Do share.