SHF 22: Jam I amPosted on 2006.08.26 at 21:54
When I was little, my Mom would make strawberry jam every year. My sisters and my parents and I would start off by picking the berries on a warm June morning, before the sun rose too high. It was a wonder that we managed to get enough berries for jam at all, since every other berry went into our mouths rather than the baskets.
On the drive home, the car was syrupy sweet with the smell of all of the sun-warmed berries, carefully stowed away so that they wouldn't be crushed. Some were always put aside for immediate consumption--either on strawberry shortcake, or on my Dad's famous crispy waffles in lieu of syrup. The rest went into the jam pot.
My sisters and I would help, teetering precariously on chairs that we had dragged to the counter's edge. We would measure out the sugar carefully and pour it into the pot with the berries, then take turns gleefully mashing up the berries with an old potato masher. My Mom prepared the pectin herself--that required heating the powdered pectin and water to a rolling boil, and was too dangerous for us.
She mixed the hot pectin into the berries, and then we were allowed to help again, putting the jam into jars, and moving the jars into the freezer. Then, even in the middle of winter, we could go to the freezer and retreive one of the little translucent ruby jars and have the taste of fresh June strawberries on our hot buttered toast.
As we got older and my parents got busier, my Mom stopped making jam. I didn't really think about it much either, as a matter of fact. I didn't have jars, for one thing, or lids. And I didn't have the freezer space to make the kind of freezer jam that my Mom used to--it uses less sugar and is cooked less than conventional jam, so more of the fresh fruit flavor comes through. But when I saw that Sugar High Friday 22 (generously hosted at the lovely blog Delicious Days) was all about jam, and the CSA provided three pounds of fresh peaches (for the third week in a row!) I decided to revisit my jam making past.
Freezer jam was out, for the reason I mentioned, but I found, when I went to the store for pectin and jars, that there is a newer kind of pectin that requires much less sugar than the old-fashioned kind. Bingo. Problem solved. Now I could make regular non-freezer jam that I could store at room temperature without stamping out the flavor of fresh peaches with overcooking or a mountain of sugar.
And so I set to work and made up a batch of:
Bourbon-Peach Jam with Vanilla
Makes about 18 4 oz jars
I like to use the small 4 oz jam jars here. The small size allows the jam to cool quickly, which helps prevent runniness. Plus the tiny jars are good for gifts, and good if there are only one or two people eating the jam--you can finish a jar up quickly.
Speaking of jars, before you begin this recipe either wash jars in the dishwasher on the extra hot water cycle, or wash them with hot soapy water and boil them for 10 minutes, leaving them on dry or in the boiling water until you need them for your jam. This sterilizes the jar and lengthens the shelf life of your jam.
1 package low sugar pectin
3.5 lb peaches
4.5 cups sugar (check the pectin package for exact measurements--the instructions differ slightly depending on the brand of pectin).
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 Vanilla bean, cut into 1/4 in pieces
1/4 cup bourbon
1 tsp almond extract
Blanch the peaches in boiling water for 30 sec. Shock the blanched peaches in cold water, then peel them.
Chop the peaches into 1/4 in dice, removing the pits.
Put the peaches, sugar, lime juice, and vanilla bean into a large non-reactive pot (stainless is good).
Mash the peaches with a potato masher, until they are your desired consistency. I like my jam chunky, so I leave most of my peaches unmashed. Stir the peach mixture until the sugar is dissolved.
Turn the stove to medium-high and bring the peach mixture to a rolling boil, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Boil for 1 minute, then add the pectin (or do as the pectin package directs). Bring the jam to a rolling boil once more, stirring constantly, and boil exactly one minute.
Remove the jam from heat. Stir in the bourbon and extract, then ladle the hot jam into jars, and screw on the lids. Then set the jars on a rack in a large pot of boiling water--the water should be 1 in above the jar tops. Bring the water to a gentle boil and boil the jars for 10 minutes. Then remove the jars from the hot water and set aside to cool.
When the jam is cold, check the seals on the jars by pressing on the centers of the lids. If the lids do not spring back, they are vacum sealed and the jam can be stored at room temp. If there is no seal, store your jam in the freezer instead.