When life gives you peaches... make jam! Peach jam is more flavoursome than apricot jam and it can be made from whole peaches, with the skin.
Can you make jam from peaches?
Peach jam fools everyone. You think, or at least I did, that it doesn’t even exist or at most belongs with those quaint outlandish preserves made by niche artisan hipsters in tiny quantities, like courgette or banana.
And as there’s usually a reason for those things not being hugely popular or made by everybody. It’s probably because a/ peach is not jammable or b/ the jam is simply not very nice.
It is completely not so. Peaches jam all right and the product has a delightful flavour. It is obviously very similar to apricot, but it has a lighter taste and is actually more fragrant.
The fruit doesn’t instantly dissolve which could be a benefit for those who prefer their jam chunky; but it succumbs to a potato masher easily, for the smooth jam posse.
Should we peel the peaches for jam?
The other issue that I found frequently raised while doing my peachy research, was that you have to peel the peaches prior to preserving them. The cumbersome scalding, scoring and ice-bathing process, like you would do with tomatoes, was widely recommended as allegedly peach skins floating in the jam were hideous.
So I did, like a conscientious jammer that I am, set off to scald, score and all, only to find that it’s an impossible task. I don’t know: maybe those folks who posted the advice have access to some super-ripe, skin-shedding at a blink of an eye peaches but my tough specimen refused to disrobe.
Right – into the sugar they went, skins and all, and I don’t know what the ‘skin ‘em!’ believers were on about because the jam turned out flawless, the skins barely discernible and definitely less so than on apricots or plums.
Best kept secret? Well, it’s out now, and you also can enjoy it on a buttered toast in the morning.
General jamming advice
There are some fallacies related to making jam at home. The first, which I was myself guilty of believing in, is that you need huge quantities of fruit, preferably grown by yourself, to make a viable quantity of jam.
That is complete rubbish. You could make jam from as little as a pound of fruit, should you wish. Which is brilliant if you’d rather have a variety of small jars rather than a pantryful of strawberry jam only.
Another is jam with low sugar content. Unless you use sugar alternatives which probably need employing a commercial process, the jam simply won’t set. Also, isn’t it better to have a spoonful of proper stuff occasionally than half a jar of a stevia concoction?
The common belief is the ripest fruit makes the best jam: fake news. Slightly unripe specimen actually contains the most pectin, the natural setting agent. Which doesn’t mean not to jam a batch of fruit slightly past its best, but then the pectin-enriched sugar better be used.
When does jam set?
It all depends on how runny you like your jam to be. You can take it off the hob after 20 minutes but then don’t expect to cut it with a knife. The ballpark setting point temperature for jam is 105C/221F so a jamming thermometer is handy. Note though that climbing from 100C to 105C takes sometimes longer than reaching the 100C.
The frozen saucer is a good test if you don’t have a temperature probe. Place a small plate in the freezer when you put your jam on. When it looks like it might be ready, drop a blob of the mixture onto the frozen plate, wait a minute and then poke it with your finger to see if it’s set.
More peachy recipes
When life gives you peaches, make jam. Or a cake: peach pound cake is delightful, and the formula can be used with different fruit too. The cake, made in a Bundt tin, uses peach, or other fruit, puree in addition to butter, flour, sugar and eggs. A very nifty idea!
Peaches can be used in savoury dishes too. Try skewering halves or quarters with chicken for your next barbecue.
And it’s not always only peaches and cream. How about peaches and blue cheese, baked with savoury crumble? It makes a really interesting starter, or a dessert for those with a savoury tooth.