Easy Peach Jam
a simple summer pleasure
Originally published August 2013
It happens like clockwork every year, that moment when the first whisper of fall comes crashing in. The calendar may not have officially changed seasons yet, but the breezy winds, and cooler nights made their way to the Cape a couple of days ago. This has been the pattern for most of the 18 years I've been coming here. Of course, summer doesn't disappear without a fight, especially back in New York City. I'm sure we'll be swapping sweaters for swimsuits again next week, but right now my thoughts on this Easy Peach Jam.
The change in weather gave me a bit of a panic attack the other day. We've had some wonderful trips this summer, but all the packing, unpacking, and on and off planes means I missed a good deal of my local growing season. Translation: my cupboards are dismally low on home-canned goodies. Thankfully, I stumbled upon some incredible peaches at the farmers' market in Provincetown this past weekend, proving the window has not yet closed on my canning opportunities.
When I first started making jam, I relied on Pomona's Universal Pectin because I was weary of using copious amounts of sugar to thicken it. I also love to capture the pure fruit flavor without any cloying sweetness. That said, my thoughts on this changed a little this year. I still do recommend Pomona's, especially if you're diabetic, need to maintain, or just prefer, a low-sugar lifestyle.
There are other approaches to making jam, though, that you can consider.
Adding chopped, unripe, tart apples (sometimes called summer apples), is one method. These apples are high in natural pectin, and just a little apple, chopped up, goes a long way to helping thicken up your jam, allowing you to use a little less sugar (don't get me wrong, you'll still need a good amount). You can also try making your own apple jelly to use as a pectin base for your jam. This is Christine Ferber's approach, and her jams are heavenly. I'm madly in love with her raspberry violet one, and stock up on it whenever I'm in Paris (I've yet to be able to find it here in NYC).
The last method, and one I've embraced this summer, is the very traditional method of adding almost equal parts sugar to fruit. It's incredibly easy, and is cooked on the stovetop instead of my quick method which uses the microwave (a great recipe if you want to make jam in 15 minutes!). Don't mistaken large quantities of sugar as a remedy for poor quality fruit. It's still imperative to use super ripe fruit for the best taste.
I've experimented a lot with infusing fresh herbs, and new flavors into my jams. Rosemary with strawberries is a lovely marriage. A friend recently made a plum lavender jam that was incredible, too. When it comes to perking me up on a cold, grey, winter day, though, I crave a more simple, pure burst of summer to slather on toast, or stir into my oatmeal.
And so, today, I'm offering up an easy peach jam recipe. All you need are three ingredients—peaches, sugar and lemon juice.
A bit of patience is necessary too, but I'm taking that ingredient as a freebie, and not adding it to my count. A note about selecting your peaches—try to get freestone peaches, as the pits release easily with minimal coaxing from the tip of your thumbnail. Cling peaches work absolutely fine, but you'll lose a little of the meat cutting the flesh from the pit. At this late point in the game, I say go with whatever peaches you've got, but thought I'd add that tidbit if you do have a choice when you're at the market.
As for peeling the peaches, a very ripe peach usually sheds it's skin easily. I get it started with the tip of a paring knife, and pull it away from there. If your skins are persistent, you can score them (cut an "X" in the bottom), and add them to a pot of boiling water for one minute, until the skins loosen. You'll need to let them cool enough so you can handle them, before slipping the skins off. This means you'll need more prep time for making your jam, but it's not at all difficult—just plan accordingly.
The jams I've been making this summer, this one included, remind me a lot of Christine Ferber's, in that they're a little on the runny side when first made. They set up more, and thicken further once opened and chilled. Feel free to experiment if you want to dress the jam up a bit. I can see vanilla bean, lemon thyme, mint, or a hint of cinnamon being a lovely accessory to the peach's natural flavor.
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