I have great memories of watching my grandparents make jam together. My grandpa chopping the fruit (usually apricots or strawberries) and my grandma manning the massive pot on the stove, stirring and scooping off the inevitable foam as the fruit boiled. Once everything was in jars and several had been given away, the rest were relegated to the fruit cellar under their basement stairs. There they sat until a fruit basket was made up for someone or until they fell prey to my grandmother’s insatiable sweet tooth and love of toast with jam.
About a year ago I got it in my head that I wanted to try my hand at making some. I’m not sure what took so long, but I finally got around to it last Sunday. Peaches were on sale ($1.07 a pound!) and I made it to the hardware store to pick up some adorable half pint Ball jars. It was 108 degrees outside, so what else would I do other than fire up the stove for an extended period of time and put the AC to its limits?
Mexican Vanilla Peach Jam
• 5 lbs yellow peaches (about 10 cups)
• 5 C sugar (I used 4, next time I’ll use 2)
• 2 tsp lemon juice
• 3 Tbsp Mexican vanilla (or 4 Tbsp regular)
Yield: 6-7 pints
1. This is the most time-consuming part, peel and chop up all of your peaches. I used a potato peeler to remove the skins, but you can also drop them into a boiling pot of water for 2 minutes then use a paring knife.
2. Combine the cut up peaches, sugar, and lemon juice in a glass bowl. Allow it to sit for an hour, stirring occasionally. This allows all of the juices to come out of the fruit.
3. Transfer everything to a large stainless or enamel pot and add the vanilla. Bring everything up to boiling and set your timer for 25 minutes, stir occasionally.
4. Now you’ll need to prepare your canning jars. In another large pot place all of the jars, lids, and rings. Fill the pot with water, covering everything with at least one inch. Bring the water up to a simmer, then turn off the heat. Remove and dry the lids and rings, but leave the jars in the hot water. This will keep them from cracking once you put the hot jam inside.
<Insert photo of bubbling pot that I got too distracted to take>
5. After about 15 minutes of your jam mixture boiling, get out a potato masher and have at it. The pieces should be more or less cooked and “mash” fairly easily.
<Insert photo of finished jam in pot that I got too distracted to take>
6. Around 20-25 minutes in your jam should start to reach the jelling point. You’ll know because it actually starts to resemble – what else – JAM! Turn off the heat and get out a ladle.
7. One by one remove your jars from their bath, dry and carefully ladle the hot jam into the jar leaving 1/4″ of breathing room. If you get any on the outside take a second and wipe it off. Put on the lid and the ring, and turn the jar upside down to rest at room temperature for the next 24 hours. (Some people like to put the jars back into a boiling bath for 10 minutes.)
* Please note that because this jam is pectin-free it has a shorter shelf-life, about a month in the refrigerator once the jar’s seal is broken.
All subpar photos copyright of Kelly Beall/Design Crush