Late-season peaches are nicely priced at the grocers this time of year, and there are so many varieties! White-flesh or standard, large or small, red or cream colored, they’re a nice addition to the table this time of year. It’s also time to start thinking about putting some up for the winter, in some form. Freezing’s a nice way, and fairly quick. They can then be used to wow your friends at Christmas, when you have peach pie with the feast.
Or you can make jam and preserves, and have a tasty spread year-round.
Last week was National Talk Like a Pirate Day, and that got me to thinking. Why not make a commemorative jam? I had the peaches (about 2½ lbs); a nice collection of small-but-ripe freestones that looked ideal for the application. With all the pepper jelly madness going on hereabouts this summer, I had everything else ready to hand. Time to go for it!
First, I prepped the kitchen with gear, jars and sweeteners. This time I chose to try some honey as the primary sweetener, with sugar and sucralose to keep the sweet taste balanced (and lower carbs). Then I washed and cut the fruit and put it in acidulated water in the fridge. I planned on lemon juice as the acid source (although peaches have some nice acid), so the acid in the water wouldn’t cause any problems.
So my “software” included 1 cup honey, 1 cup sugar, 1½ cups sucralose, ¼ cup lemon juice, and 3 tablespoons of no-sugar pectin. (Remember, the no-sugar means you can make jellies and jams without sugar if you like, not that it won’t work with sugar.) Oh, and one more very important ingredient:
Rum. It’s Pirate Fare after all. So I got a cup of rum ready. (Plus a wee tad more for the Head Pirate Chef. It’s my kitchen, after all.)
With the canner hot and the jars ready I started the jam in my Dutch oven. Drained peaches went in, then the lemon juice and ½ cup of the rum. As the temperature came up on the fruit I added the honey, sucralose and sugar-pectin mixture. To prevent the pectin from clumping, I stirred it into the sugar, then added the sugar mix in small batches by “dusting” it over the top of the fruit and stirring well between each small batch.
Once the fruit got to boiling nicely I kept the pot on high for a couple of minutes, to be sure the pectin was activated and to give the fruit time to soften a bit. Then I took the pot off the heat and stirred in the remaining rum. Right away I started filling jars; the rum’s alcohol will evaporate over time if you don’t move on with the process. I didn’t check the jell, as for sure this stuff would be okay; ripe peaches have some pectin, and I’d added plenty.
One key point here: The rum in the jam will make it boil quite a bit harder during canning than normal. So, to compensate, you need to do two things. First, leave a bit more headspace. In half-pint jars they recommend ¼ inch from top of fill to bottom of lid. I left more like ½ inch, or a teensy bit less. Second, I made sure the rings were a bit more than finger tight on the jars. If you don’t take precautions, you can lose the jars in the canner. The lids can literally pop off (it’s the rings letting go, actually, then the flats come flying off), or worse, the jar can fracture. Messy in either case, and poor form.
In any case, don’t use more than half a cup of spirits in a jam or jelly (for a 3-4 pint batch, I mean) unless you cook away a good bit of the alcohol. (Wine’s not a problem.) That’s why I added half the rum at the beginning, then the rest at the end.
I got six full half-pints without incident, and about enough left over for a hearty breakfast. As in “Avast, me hearties! Hands off me peaches or I’ll be a keelhaulin’ ya…”
Enjoy the (Rummy Fruit Spread) Heat!
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