I ended up with a few pounds this week and decided to make a couple different things, since I haven't done anything with peaches since last spring. I ate a few before we started so my yields weren't as high as I would have liked but hey, if you're cooking, you get to eat as you go, right? I dragged out my dehydrator and set up a few trays to dry, then hit the stove for some jam. I'll save the dehydrating for another post but there's a photo above that you can gander at if you'd like.
I need to say up front that I'm not big on liquid pectin. It's okay, but I think it changes the taste of the jam, reducing the intensity of the flavors. Not my goal in this exercise. Besides, I like a softer set, not something that reminds me of jello. And - most important - you can heat this up and pour it over vanilla ice cream for a moment of bliss. Can't do that if it's got the consistency of that nasty condensed cream of mushroom soup I used to use in casseroles before I realized there was a better way.
The peach recipe I love to make (my son ate it off a spoon today and tried to steal a jar for himself) is very simple, basically a peach preserve, but with a special ingredient that gives it a punch. Cointreau. Have you ever added it to your peaches? It makes them AMAZING. Give it a try.
|Lovely peach preserves :-)|
4 cups chopped peaches (9-10 peaches)
2 cups granulated sugar (I like organic, like this)
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp Cointreau
When making jam or preserves I peel the peaches, and there are a few ways to accomplish that. The easiest is to pop the whole peach in the freezer as soon as it becomes ripe. It needs 6-8 hours to freeze solid, then you can defrost and during the thawing process the skins will slide right off. (You can only do this if you are making jam or preserves; as with tomatoes, freezing changes the consistency of the fruit.) If the texture of the peach is perfect, it's easy to peel, but just a little past optimal ripeness and you're peeling mush. Last resort is blanching. I hate this, but I will do it if I have to. Anything to get that lovely peach jam on my tongue. To blanch, drop the peaches in boiling water for about a minute, then pull them out and the skins will crack and slough off.
Place the chopped peaches and sugar in a large saucepan on low heat. Let them cook together until the peaches are translucent, then turn up the heat to a medium boil, stirring to prevent sticking. I usually use a masher or immersion blender at this point, because I don't like big chunks. I am a very persnickety jam eater. The peach mixture will need to cook down and thicken until it comes off the spoon in one sheet rather than in drops. Once it's thick enough to sheet you can turn off the heat, add the lemon juice and Cointreau, and stir. Make sure you taste it at this point before anyone else gets any. Just because.
I usually can this recipe, although you can just stick it in the fridge and eat it up. To can it, use a hot water bath canner and process for 10 minutes. Makes 3-4 half pints.