I grew up on a produce farm in Michigan, and was the only daughter of five children. Many of the chores and duties we kids were responsible for were uniform across the board (everyone did them), and some of them were more specific. As the only girl child, I spent a lot of time helping and learning in my mother’s kitchen.
I’m 50 years old now, and have been married close to 26 years. While I enjoy cooking and baking, I fell away from much of what I learned as a young lady. Perhaps it was laziness on my part, or convincing myself I didn’t have the time, or reluctance on my part to purchase the necessary equipment for canning.
A few weeks ago I caught the jam making bug, and just had to try. It would be the first time I ever made jam all by myself. I did it every year with my mom until I was 18. My mother put up hundreds of jars each year: pickles and relishes of all kinds, peaches, many kinds of jams (primarily strawberry), tomatoes, tomato sauce, apple sauce, and I’m sure I’m forgetting some things. Not to mention we had two deep freezers, one dedicated to meat, and the other dedicated to fruits and vegetables.
I live in Illinois…..and a few weeks ago my best option for locally-obtained fruit was peaches, so off my husband went to Curtis Orchard & Pumpkin Patch in Champaign, Illinois….to fetch for me one 1/2 bushel of Red Haven peaches.
My friend, Lisa, had sent me an open bath canner, canning utensils, and a box of one dozen 1/2 pint jars as a surprise gift over a year ago, so it was time to wash and sterilize everything, and put this gift to working use.
I searched online for jam recipes, but eventually settled on a peach jam recipe in my old 1970’s era cookbook. So keep in mind, that while I did help my mother for many years, I’m a novice at this and make no claim to expertise of any kind. I did photo document my experience and will share that here.
I spent an afternoon on a weekend making jam. The entire time, I could feel my mom in my mind, and I was flooded with memories, tastes and aromas from the past. My mom passed away in 2007. I’d like to think that she would have been proud of my attempt and pleased with the lucky results.
Canner out, stainless steel stockpot for cooking down the fruit.
Washed the peaches.
Blanching. Put the peaches in the stock pot when the water was at a rolling boil. Once it resumed boiling the peaches were left in there for 3-5 minutes to loosen up the skins.
Sink full of ice and water.
Removing blanched peaches from the pot.
Hot blanched peaches plunged into ice water, to stop the cooking process.
Peel, cut and quartered the peaches.
Sterilizing jars and lids. (Note – do NOT “boil” the lids)
Don hates lumps and bumps and chunks in his jams….likes them smooth…..so after I cooked down the fruit/sugar…..I ran it through the blender to make it smooth….I did add more pectin than the original recipe called for because of this. After running it through the blender I put it back on the stove to cook down some more….added more sugar and pectin…..to taste…..as the original recipe called for a bit of lemon juice and it tasted too tart for me….so to reduce the unwanted tang, more sugar. So now I am totally off recipe and entering the experimentation zone, not the wisest thing to do when you have never done it before!
Skimming off the foam.
Filling the HOT jars, leaving about 1/4 head space, make sure the edges of the jars are wiped off (I used clean paper towels for this).
I missed taking a couple of photos…..this is the jam AFTER PROCESSING.
Once you fill the hot jars with the hot jam, and clean off the edges, place your lid and ring on top, screw the ring down hand tight, place the jars in your canner when it boils….bring it back to a rolling boiling…..and that is when you start the processing time…..from when it RESUMES BOILING…..these 1/2 pint jars were processed for a total of 15 minutes. Then I removed them with jar tongs and placed them onto the towel, that you see here.
I waited a full 24 hours before I checked the seals (unscrew the ring and pick the jar up by the seal edges) – NO GIVE! Ta da! Good seals! Thanks mom!
It was a bit thin at first (first jar), but when we opened the second jar a week later, perfect set. HOORAY!
This, my friends, is what “Summer in a Jar” looks like!
I was left with quite a few peaches after making twelve 1/2 pints of jam, so over the course of the following week, I made two peach pies (one to keep and one to give away) and a peach cobbler. We also ate several fresh.
I think mom would have been proud and pleased. I’m grateful she showed me how to get around in a kitchen. Making food for others has brought me much joy over the years. I’m also grateful that one afternoon a few weekends ago, I traveled back to a cherished and simpler time. I believe that all the love and memories were the most important ingredients in my peach jam.