Here is how to make the best peach jam that cannot be bought in a store. The delicate, loose texture is achieved because no extra pectin is added. This recipe also has a better peach flavor because it uses less sugar. Whenever you make jam or jelly with commercial pectin it always calls for more sugar than fruit.
For this jam, the ratio of fruit to sugar without pectin is 4 to 3 creating a very, very nice, flavorful product.
- Rinse and peel peaches. You can leave the fruit in halves or cut up into pieces depending on your personal preference. Put into a large sauce pan (peaches should take up less than half of the pan or else it will boil over in the cooking process).
- Add sugar and stir. Let sit for a few minutes while the sugar draws moisture from the peaches.
- Turn heat on high and stir frequently until mixture settles into a boil. Cook for 40 minutes or there abouts (adjust for altitude), on medium to keep a constant boil. Stir occasionally especially near the end to make sure no burning is happening. (Note: if you use a thin metal pan that doesn’t conduct heat very evenly, you will need to stir more often to prevent burning on the bottom).
While the jam is doing it’s thing with the heat:
- Wash 3-4 pint jars (or their equivalent). Check the jar rims for cracks or nicks. If you find any, discard the jar from your canning supplies as they will impair the seal.
- Boil jars for 10 minutes and keep hot until ready to fill.
- Wash and rinse 4 screw tops to fit your jar mouth. Note: rusty tops are hard to screw on and should be replaced.
- Rinse 4 new canning lids and place in a small pot of water. Heat on stovetop and keep hot until ready to use.
Right before your cooking is done (jam will still be a bit runny – this is OK), set clean and boiled jars on a dish towel next to the stove. Fill the jars with hot jam (a canning funnel is useful) up to 1/4 – 1/8 inch of the rim. Use a clean and damp dishcloth or paper towel to wipe the jar rims clean. This is important for the seal. If any fruit slips onto the rim, it must be wiped again before setting the lids on top of the jars. Place lids from hot water onto jars (a magnetic wand or tongs will fish them out nicely). Screw lids on with screw bands being careful not to tip jars and contents on rim. If you do spill, just clean the rims and lids and do it again.
The safest and most secure way of making sure your jars seal is to place them in a pot of hot water with a barrier on the bottom (so they don’t touch the heated bottom and crack) with 2 inches of water covering the tops. This is called a ‘water bath’ and ensures that the lid gets hot enough to form a seal.
Now, I didn’t tell you this, but, in the case of jam, sugar is a preservative and the water bath heating process at the end is not for killing bacteria but ensuring a seal. Your jam won’t grow dangerous bacteria as long as you don’t use less sugar than the ratio mentioned above.
A friend of mine will sometimes turn her hot jars upside down on a towel for about 3 minutes (use a jar tong and hot pad) and then turn them back over to ensure the lid gets hot enough. The lids should depress in the middle and most likely you’ll hear a ‘pop’ when the vacuum forms inside the jar. This is a seal. Let your jars cool completely (about 7-8 hours) and don’t touch during this process. Remove the screw rings, they are no longer needed and don’t help with the seal. They’re only for the heating process. Wash your jars in warm sudsy water to remove any lingering jam that might have spilled on your jars. If you omit this step you may end up with a lovely moldy culture growing on your jars in a few weeks which may compromise your seal.
Good job. It get’s easier once you’ve done it a couple of times and you’ll be able to whip out lots of batches while you listen to some nice music or watch your favorite cooking show!