8 pounds of peaches (I used clingstone, which is roughly 26 small peaches, which makes 10 cups of sliced and cut peaches; freestone peaches would be larger)
1 ½ pounds of pure organic cane sugar (equals 3 cups)
¼ cup lemon juice
2 t. vanilla extract
7-9 large sprigs of chocolate mint (or spearmint, basil, lemon balm or lemon verbena ) (optional)
- First, place 2 small plates in the freezer for testing the jam later. Sterilize your jars and have them ready in the hot canning pot (see Canning 101 sheet). Have clean rings and lids ready to go into a small pot of water.
- Second, prepare the peaches. Make an ice bath by placing ice into water in a large bowl.
- Boil a large pot of water for skinning the peaches. Using a knife, cut a crisscross X at the top of each peach. Blanch the peaches in the boiling water for 30-60 seconds or until the skin around the X cut is loose. Remove the peaches and plunge into the ice-water bath. Remove and drain peaches when cool, but do not leave in too long. One at a time, peel each peach by peeling the skin back from the X cuts. You will need to repeat the blanch/plunge/drain/peel process several times since there are so many peaches. I put the skinned peaches on one large plate to hold them until they can be cut. Repeat until all peaches are skinned.
- Then cut each peach. With clingstones, the fruit sticks to the pit, so you have to slice and cut the peach from around the pit. With freestones, the fruit is easily removed from the pit by cutting the peach in half by running your knife from the top part of the peach in a circle until your knife ends upon at the start. Put one hand on either side of the peach and twist each in the opposite direction and each half will pop out of the pit. Then cut the peach into quarter inch pieces. Repeat until all peaches are cut. Be sure to save the juice.
- Put the peaches in a wide, large, non-reactive heavy bottomed pot. Stir in the sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Bruise the chocolate mint stems by pinching the leaves to release their flavor and then add to the mixture in the pot. Bring rapidly to a hard boil and maintain at a steady boil.
- Stir periodically to keep the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan. After about ten minutes, use tongs to pick the chocolate mint out of the mixture (this is why I recommend a long stem, sturdy herb that will hold up and be intact for removal). It may take another 10 minutes or so for the mixture to thicken . Stir more frequently to be sure the peach mixture does not stick as it is thicker at this point. Throughout the process, skim with a spoon to remove any excess foam.
- As you are working on the peach mixture, bring the water in the pot for the lids and rings to a simmer.
- At 221 degrees there will be a proper gel or you can use the plate test to check the set. Remove a plate from the freezer and drop a spoonful of the liquid syrup onto it. Put in the freezer for two minutes, then gently press the edge of the liquid syrup with your finger. If it wrinkles, it is ready. If not, return to a boil for 2 more minutes and then check again, using the second plate.
- When the peach preserves pass the plate test/reaches 221 degrees, it is ready to jar.
- Remove the jars and lids/rings from their respective pots and place on folded towels. Place your funnel into the jar and ladle the hot preserves into it, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Use a bubble remover around the edge of the jars to remove air bubbles. Use a moistened rag to rub the top rim of the jar. Place the lid on top of the jar and then twist on the ring (but not too tight – just a nice, sensible twist).
- Place the jars into the boiling water of the canning pot. The water should cover the jars by at least one inch. Bring the water to a boil again and process for ten minutes at a steady, simmering boil.
- After that, let the jars sit in the water for five minutes.
- Then remove the jars from the pot and place on folded towels (preferably on on a tray, so that you can move them if you wish). Do not disturb for 12 hours, then check to see if the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of the lid. It should not move, which indicates a proper seal. If it does push down and pops back up, it did not seal properly and the jar should be refrigerated immediately. Use a method to label and date your jars – either a sticker or use a permanent market to write it on the lid. Use within one year.
Yield: about 7 eight ounce jars.
Contact Martha at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or (404) 242-9265 if you have questions about canning or interest in Preserving Place. We will be hiring a cook and retail sales clerks so please contact her if you are interested.
Martha holds a certificate from the Better Process Control School from the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Department of Food Science and Technology, which is prescribed by the US Food and Drug Administration and the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service.