*how is it that I have never used that Bob Marley song before for a post about making jam? Haha!*
In between the spurts of Ye Olde Secret Knitting that had to be done on a deadline (and which is now safely, and happily, on its way to its real owner), there was a bit of sweet kitchen time!
This has been an incredible summer for peaches, especially from New Jersey. I don’t know what combination/type of weather produces great peaches, but suffice it to say, 2012 has been one of the years with the right kind of growing weather. So I thought a bit of peach jam was in order. And not just any peach jam, but a batch of peach jam with a hint of one of my favorite spices: cardamom. Cardamom is a really difficult spice to describe properly, at least in my experience: it’s citrusy, floraly, perfumey, and above all, a little bit goes a long way.
(It is really hard to cut up this many peaches without stealing a lot of slices for snacking along the way.)
This was a unique method of making jam, adapted from the beautiful Art of Preserving by Williams-Sonoma. After preparing the fruit, it sits in a few cups of sugar for at least 4 hours on the counter, or even overnight in the fridge. In addition, the skin is kept on the peaches to enhance the flavor of the jam and to use the jam as a source of natural pectin. Keeping the skins on is obviously much easier than removing them, so I was already on board with this recipe. As the afternoon wore on, there was less peach and more syrup as the peaches broke down (which, in my book, is also not a problem):
(For 12 cups of peaches, only 3 cups of sugar was needed for this step, which is notably less than you could see in other conventional recipes.)
After the peaches and sugar have gotten to know each other well, it’s on to the stovetop to create the jam by breaking down the peaches and thickening the mixture:
This is where this particular recipe breaks with conventional (and commercial-pectin) approaches. When the jam mixture doesn’t include any commercial pectin, more cooking time and less vigorous heat are needed to get a jam with the right consistency. Therefore, it’s intrinsically more difficult to judge when the jam is ready, but for those of you who prefer not to use commercial pectin or too much sugar, it’s good to know that this method does work. What I was looking for here was a thickened mixture with a nice orangey-peach colored syrup. After about 30 minutes or so, that’s just what I got:
Once you’ve skimmed the top, about 1/2 of a teaspoon of cardamom gets added into this lusciously peachy soup. Since this batch made 7 half-pints, you can see how little of the spice is really needed! Admittedly, this jam is a bit runnier than what I would get if I had used a commercial pectin and the traditional rolling-boil approach, but it was a fun experiment and the results were completely delicious! We’ve enjoyed this jam on everything from challah to croissants and even pork chops! (Try that last one. MMMMM.)
And even with all this peach jam, I’m still trying to think of ways to devour more peaches while summer is at its peak…..
PS: Happy Birthday, Kime! 15 years young for my parents’ one-of-a-kind, best-girl-ever shih tzu.
PPS: Guess who else likes peaches? Yeah, that one’s a no-brainer: