Did you help me pick the peaches? Did you help me skin the peaches? Did you help me chop the peaches? Did you help me cook the peaches? Did you help me make the jam? Did you help me can the jam? Will you help me eat the jam?
I sure hope so, I made way too much of it.
Last year we gave away jars of apple butter as gifts and favors for the holidays. This year we decided to do peach jam instead. I ran down to the orchard at the beginning of August and picked 30lbs of big yellow peaches. Then, in mid-September we rushed up there to grab another 45lbs before they were done for the season. I ended up with three batches of a simple peach jam for gifting (and a few other things as well).
In my book, Christine Ferber has a recipe for a jam made from “vineyard peaches”. Information about vineyard peaches is hard to come by. Even Wikipedia doesn’t seem to have any reference to it. Searching the interwebs, I’ve found two possible explanations for the origins and uses of these fruits, neither with much corroborating evidence:
- Vineyard peaches have a natural weakness to mildew, which made it an excellent bellwether for vineyards. These peaches would be grown on the outskirts of the vineyard to help alert farmers to the impending approach of mildew.
- Rows of vineyard peaches are grown in vineyards to help separate distinct grape varieties, and their presence actually improves or modifies the flavor of the wines grown from the nearby grapes.
In the first case it would seem to be a specific cultivar of peach grown for it’s particular “mildewiness”, while in the second case it would seem to be any cultivar of peaches so long as they are grown on the grounds of a vineyard. Regardless, I’ve never found a store or farmstand which will sell me a “vineyard peach” or a peach which has been grown on a vineyard. (Although, the orchard we go to does have some grapes, which, I suppose, qualifies).
In lieu of the mysterious vineyard peach, I’ve used the big, bright, sunny globes from our local orchard to make a simple, but wonderful, holiday treat.
Simple Peach Jam
- 2.5lbs Peaches, net
- 3 cups Sugar, divided
- 1 box Pectin Sure-Jel low-sugar pectin
- Lemon Juice 
Peel, pit and finely chop the peaches . Add to a stockpot with lemon juice and 2 cups sugar. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, pour the mixture into a nonreactive bowl  and refrigerate overnight.
Next day, add the peach mixture and the remaining sugar to a large stock pot. Bring to a boil. Add the pectin and boil hard, stirring, for 1 minute. Ladle into prepared jars and process in a boiling water bath .
I kept the chunks of peaches a little big on purpose. The set of the jam seems to be nearly perfect, and the flavor is fantastic. It’s bright and sunny, just like the peaches it’s made from. This recipe is simple but it’s definitely a winner.
We made several batches of this jam to give away as gifts this year, and the 2-day process actually worked out very well. I end up only having to work with one batch of peaches per day, which is great if they aren’t all ripe at the same time. The first day I process and refrigerate the first batch of peaches. The second day I finish the first batch and begin the second batch. Continue like this until all the peaches are gone. Each batch made about 7 half-pint jars, so I made three batches to give away.
Dana bought printable labels, and put the jars together as nice gifts.
I hope the holiday season went well for everybody! It’s a fun time of year, but I’m definitely looking forward to the warmer and more garden-productive months ahead. Here’s a picture of another holiday food treat, that requires no explanation:
- Juice of 1 lemon or equivalent amount of store-bought juice. I used juice from the store, because it’s more consistent and safe for such a big batch.
- Peel peaches easily by cutting an X in the bottom, floating them in boiling water for 30 seconds, then dunking them quickly into a bowl of ice water. In theory, if they’re properly ripe, the skins will slide right off. In reality I’ve found several varieties that are still not easy to peel even after this hot-cold treatment. This current batch has been about 95% easy to peel, the rest just get chopped up and eaten.
- I used glass.
- I processed for 10 minutes.