i’ve been keeping a little secret from you. i didn’t mean to, but the thought of blogging about this process seemed somewhat daunting to me. i’ve been making jam. lots of jam. some good, some not-as-good. although, i don’t think there is any bad jam. i had decided early on that i would try to make the stuff with a fruit and sugar base only. maybe some herbs from the garden. maybe some sugary root products (like crystallized ginger). but not packaged pectin. and not to be a snob about it either. i think pectin has it’s place: in jellies and when you want things to turn out just so, such as a commercial product. i have no issue with eating or buying jam that is made with pectin. it just seems silly to go to the trouble of buying or picking nice fruit to preserve yourself and then going to the added expense and trouble of adding an additional ingredient which is unnecessary.
the idea of canning, putting up, preserving, what have you is something that really appeals to me on many levels. although many members of my family claim not to be ‘hoarders’, most of us like to save stuff, ya know, just in case we may need that stuff in the future. like way in the future. like maybe never. but at least we take comfort in the fact that we have it. i am also someone who hates the idea of waste. oh, the guilt of throwing away a 1/2 pound of grapes or a hunk of cheese that got lost in the fridge is almost unbearable. the fact that i can take pounds of fruit or veggies and put them in jars, virtually allowing them to hang in suspended animation for the better part of a year, just waiting for me to need them…don’t even get me started on how exciting that is.
now, i am not an authority on jam-making, nor have i been canning very long (just started this summer), so for the specifics on all this i feel the need to refer you to the experts here, and here. this is a very nice site as well.
peach jam with crystallized ginger (makes 2 pints/4 half-pints)
i suppose you could use freshly grated ginger in place of the crystallized, but i would cut way back on the amount: fresh ginger can be very pungent. be sure to use (at least a few) peaches that are a bit on the under ripe side because these still have some natural pectin on board, making for a jam that jells more quickly, thereby reducing your cooking time and contributing to a fresher peach flavor.
3 pounds fresh peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 tbsp crystallized ginger, finely minced
1 tsp unsalted butter (only needed for a very foamy mixture-more on this below)
combine cut peaches, sugar, and ginger in a large bowl and thoroughly mix. this may be done up to two days in advance if kept refrigerated. place a shallow, empty bowl or small plate in the freezer, which you will use to test the set of jam when the mixture comes to temperature. pour contents into a large, heavy bottomed, non-reactive stock pot and bring to a boil. if mixture boils up rapidly and attempts to foam over, add a tsp of butter to the pot. this should get the mixture back under control. cut heat to medium-high and simmer at a pretty rapid pace until a candy thermometer (or deep-fry thermometer, same thing) registers about 220F.
place a few drops of mixture on bowl or plate from freezer and return to freezer for a few minutes. if, when you draw a line through mixture with your finger, the mixture stays separated and appears ‘wrinkly’, it is set. if it still appears runny, boil mixture for another 3-5 minutes and try freezer test again.
when it is ready, skim off any foam that has accumulated on top and pour mixture into sterilized, hot jars and process in a water bath for 10 minutes. allow to sit undisturbed for 12-24 hours. check that jars have sealed properly. store in a cool dry place for up to 1 year. alternatively, you could store jam in sterilized jars in refrigerator for months without water bath processing.