How can we let Summer pass us by without celebrating one of it's many gifts: peaches? Seems like an opportunity that just can't be missed if you ask me. Now, there are many different directions that we could go in with our little round friends that are only in season for a hot (really hot, like 90-degree-weather kind of hot) second. Ice cream, shortcake, scone, sangria. But I decided to do what my heart was telling me to do; make jam. And what baby wants, baby gets. My heart is the baby in this scenario...Or maybe it's my stomach?
Let's move on.
Some people prefer to make their jam with granulated sugar, but I tend to prefer light brown. To me, it brings a warmth and more nuanced flavor than just white sugar. It helps to sweeten whatever berry or stone fruit that you've decided to make into a jam, while also giving more of a depth of flavor. This go-round, I also decided to add a little splash of vanilla. But, you should only do this if you're truly a die-hard vanilla fan as it is a flavor that refuses to stay subtle. I happen to love it, but the choice is yours and yours alone.
Of course, one very vital ingredient when making jam, whatever kind you choose, must be lemon. Not lemon extract, but fresh lemon juice, plus the zest. What lemon does is not only brighten the other flavors in your delectable compote, but also cuts through some of the sweetness with a little kick of acidity. Without lemon, your jam could become cloyingly sweet, and no matter how big of a sweet tooth you have, there is actually such a thing as something being too sweet. I learned that the hard way.
I've said it before, and I will say it forever: I am at my utter best when making jam. Perhaps it's that it fills the home with such warm and sweet aromas that linger for hours. Or maybe it's because it's the closest I ever feel to my ancestors, the ones who lived in the real country in Tennessee, who knew the value of hard work, who foraged and canned not because it was on trend, but because it's just what was done. I feel like my great-grandmother is with me somehow when I'm standing over a bubbling pot, guiding me along, and introducing me to the Tennessee side of me. I call her Country Sydney, and I only get to see her when the sun's out and I'm frolicking outside in a field in a pair of wellies. I like Country Sydney And I think my great-grandmother would, too.
Great Granny Tiny, this peach jam is for you.
What You'll Need:
- 6 peaches, peeled, pitted, diced
- 1 cup (at least) brown sugar
- Zest of 1 lemon, plus juice of (AT LEAST) half
- Splash of vanilla, optional
- Pinch of salt
Add peaches, brown sugar, lemon zest, juice of half of a lemon, vanilla (if using), and pinch of salt to a medium sauce pan. Stir to combine.
Cook the pan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon so that the sugar starts to dissolve, and the peaches begin to release their juices. Occasionally, mash the peaches with the back of your spoon to flatten them. As the mixture starts to heat up, it will start bubbling rather vigorously, and maybe even spit up at your arm while you're stirring. Do not be alarmed. This is par for the course when you are creating delicious magic. DO NOT leave your jam at any time during this stage as it can go from fruit to burnt-beyond-belief in very, very little time.
Along the way, make sure to taste test. If the mixture is too sweet, add the other half of the lemon juice. If it's not sweet enough, add sugar by the teaspoon until it's sweet enough to your liking. (I tend to think that it's better to start off with less and add a little more, rather than start off with too much and not be able to fix it.)
Cooking time should be around 30-50 minutes depending on your stove. What to look for when seeing if your jam is done is whether or not it coats the back of the spoon. CAREFULLY draw a vertical line down the back. Has it left a defined line while the rest of your spoon is still coated with a thick jam? Yes? Congratulations, you've just passed the "line" test. Also, YOU HAVE PEACH JAM.
It's important to note that I prefer my jams on the "chunkier" side because I like the differences in texture. If you are the same way, make sure that while there are still some little chunks of peaches, those chunks are completely soft. If you just want straight-up smooth jam, you can run it through a fine mesh sieve when it has cooled.
Once your jam has reached it's final stage, take it off the heat and let it cool in the saucepan before transferring to a clean mason jar. Store in the refrigerator.
The jam should keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.