I had never done jam before, so this was an experiment-and a successful one at that! The last harvest of my Dad's backyard peaches (all 10 lbs) showed up at my house a couple weeks ago. One of the thoughts I had was to use up a lot of it making some jam.
What I learned was that some fruits have natural pectin, and other don't. And pectin is a natural thickener when it comes to jam. Peaches don't have a lot of pectin, so you'll need help getting things to gel by adding pectin or gelatin. I used gelatin, as this was a last minute project and I had to use what was around. The gelatin set once I threw my jars in the fridge for a bit. I did not "can" my jam. I kept the jam in the fridge. Generally refrigerator jam lasts 2-3 weeks, but it's so yummy it won't last that long.
If you wish to properly "can" your jam to be shelf stable, the blogger at this site gives a great step by step how-to. (http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/05/10/how-to-can-some-jam-a-simple-method-without-pectin/)
As far as kicking up flavors, I added elderflower liquor to the jam, which adds honey and citrus tones. You can use elderflower syrup if you don't have the liquor. Ikea seems to always have bottles of that magical elixir on sale.
I also cooked it with a vanilla bean to make things smooth and lush.
The results were, "Oh my God, honey, this is out of this world!"-hubby
"I never tasted peaches like that, ever."-neighbor
My dad needs to take some credit. Homegrown ripe peaches are the star. I just brought out the best in them, that's all!
Peach, Vanilla and Elderflower Jam
4.5 lbs. ripe peaches
1 cup water
1/2 cup St. Germaine or another Elderflower liquor or syrup
1 2" vanilla bean
7 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice mixed with 3/4 cup water
3 (1 oz. packets) of gelatin (or pectin
Peel, pit and slice peaches. Pour peaches in a large stockpot. With a pastry cutter or potato masher, mash up the peaches. Add the 1 cup of water and heat up the peaches until boiling. Lower heat to a simmer. Split the vanilla bean in half, and scrape out the seeds with a knife, and add to the peaches. Then throw the vanilla pod in the peaches, too. Add the Elderflower liquor or syrup. Simmer for 30 minutes. Peaches should be soft. As peaches simmer, ladle off the foam on the top and discard. DO this throughout the cooking process until you add the sugar.
After peaches are nice and soft, use an immersion blender to puree the peaches a little bit. Use your judgement. I liked some bits of peach, but not too chunky so it's not spreadable on toast.
Next, add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Next sprinkle the gelatin over the lemon juice and water mixture until it's softened, then add it all to the jam. Stir until the jam begins to thicken and becomes glossy.
Take off heat, and let sit for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, sterilize mason jars and jam jars with their lids in boiling hot water for 5-10 minutes. Pull out gently with tongs and set on some paper towels. Let cool down until able to be touched and handled.
Ladle hot jam into the jars, 1/8" from the top. Seal tightly. Let cool down slowly at room temperature, then store in the fridge. Jam will set overnight as it cools. Can be stored up to 3 weeks. Enjoy jarred heaven.