Wednesday, August 28, 2013

1/2 a Peck of Peaches and Two Flavors of Peach Jam Part One: Vanilla Peach Jam

Nothing is better than homemade peach jam!  Fresh fruit jam is sooo good I could eat it straight out of the jar!  About a month ago while reading my favorite canning website, Food In Jars, and Marissa was reviewing a recipe book by Pomona Pectin.  I found that their recipe book was available for Kindle on Amazon so my mom being really nice sent me a copy as a gift. I read her post and became quite intrigued with the fact that Pomonoa recipes were all low sugar or no sugar.  That was wonderful news to me because I have a child that has a low tolerance to sugar.

I've been told by people that it's because I haven't given her enough for her to gain a tolerance to it.  My answer to them is if you want to give the child some candy and then be locked in the same room with her for the next 3-4 hours while she climbs the walls be my guest.  I know how she reacts to the stuff and don't think it's fair to subject her or myself to that just to make other people happy.  I've discussed it with my pediatrician and he says the approach that I'm taking is the right one.

Ok enough of the soap box and back to the jam.  I was skeptical about the claims that jam, jelly or preserves could be made low sugar and still taste good and still set.  I've made peach jam before and always used the Ball liquid pectin and usually had mixed results.  My jam or jelly either didn't set or it was hard as a rock.  I remember being so excited about trying a jelly recipe that was supposed to taste like a creamsicle.  Now being on a dairy-free diet I have had to forgo the amazing treat called a creamsicle so I was excited about this.  I followed the recipe and was so pleased when it looked like it was setting beautifully!  The recipe only made one jar so instead of canning it we put it in the fridge.  The next morning I put a slice of bread in the toaster and dreamed, all be it a little dream, of creamsicle toast, creamsicle oatmeal, yellow cake with creamsicle filling.  Pop!  And my toast was ready.  I slathered on the Smart Balance Light and then on top of that I was ready to add the creamsicle jelly.  I put my knife in the jar and it bounced back!  My jelly was hard as a brick!  Determined I chiseled off a little piece and took a taste.  All of my dreams were destroyed it was hard and too sweet for my liking!

So after living with overly sweet jams and hard jelly I decided to take the plunge.  I found the pectin over at my local health food store and it was only $4 and change for a box that claimed to make 4 or 5 batches.  Right there I was sold because at I usually pay $7 or so, depending on where I go, for Ball Liquid Pectin and that really makes 2 batches.  With this economy wherever I can save money I'm happy!  I got home and opened the box and it came with a small pouch of white calcium powder and a larger pouch with the pectin.  And a sheet full of instructions on how to make your own jams, jellies, and preserves.  It pretty much stated the amount of fruit, amount of sweetener and any extra stuff that you would need to add to make it safe to can.  But otherwise it left the recipe open to your taste.  The first recipe that I made was the Honey Ginger Peach Jam from the book and it was really really good.  It set wonderfully and the thing that I loved the most was instead of tasting the sugar you tasted the fruit itself!  Next I tried Raspberry Jam and it was AMAZING!!  And it set perfectly!

So after looking over the directions sheet I decided that I wanted to try my hand at creating my own jam recipe.  I followed the directions for making jam with peaches and decided to add some fresh vanilla to the peaches and see how that worked out.  I pretty much stuck with the Honey Ginger recipe just subbed the vanilla for the ginger and I'm was very impressed by how it worked out.  To make the jam I only used 1/2 of the 1/2 peck that I had purchased at my local farm.  I had originally decided that I was going to make a mint peach jam and a honey peach jam but because I couldn't find the mint that I wanted I had to change my plans.

My first batch was the vanilla peach jam and my second batch was a cinnamon peach jam. And the cinnamon peach jam will be the recipe for part 2 of this post.  Enjoy!

Makes around 5-6 half-pint jars

3 1/4 lbs fully ripe peaches (4 cups peaches, peeled, pit removed)
1 vanilla bean
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 tsps calcium water (see below for explanation)
1/2 cup honey
3 tsps Pomona's Pectin Powder

1.  For the Pomona Pectin to work you will need to make calcium water which is extremely easy.  Each box of Pomona Pectin comes with a small packet of white calcium powder as well as a large packet of pectin powder.  In a small glass jar, I use a half-pint jar, add 1/2 tsp white calcium powder and 1/2 cup water and shake well.  It can be stored in the refrigerator and it lasts for months.  Discard if the settled white powder changes color or gets moldy.  Remember to shake each time before use.

2.  Sterilize 5 half-pint jars in whatever method you prefer.  I know people who boil them and I know some that wash them in the dishwasher and time everything so that the jars will still be hot when they need them.  Call me lazy but I have too many other things to keep track of so I just boil them while I'm making whatever I'm canning.

3. Take 3 1/4 lbs fully ripe peaches that have been peeled and the pit has been removed and mash them up.  I like chunks of fruit in my jam so I just mash it with a potato masher.

4.  In a small bowl add honey and pectin powder and stir really well.  The honey is what is going to activate the pectin so you want to make sure that you stir it all in.  Set aside.
To save dishes I used the measuring cup
that I measured the honey into.
5.  In a stockpot, I use an 8 qt stockpot, mix together 4 cups mashed peaches, lemon juice, vanilla bean that is cut in half and scraped (add both to the pot), and 4 tsps of calcuim water.  Mix together and bring to a boil over high heat.

6.  Once the peach mixture has come to a boil add the honey and pectin mixture and stir vigorously for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and remove the vanilla bean.

7.  In a small saucepan add the lids for the jar and heat them over high heat till they come up to a simmer.  There is no need to boil them!
These lids have been heated and I had to ladle the peach jam
into the jars and had to pass it over this pot and didn't notice that I
accidentally go a little piece of peach into the pot.
8.  Remove your sterilized jars from the water bath and place a jar funnel on a jar and ladle the hot peach jam into the jar leaving 1/4-in headspace.  Remove bubbles from jar and wipe tops of jars with a wet cloth to remove any jam that got on the rim.  The jam will be kind of watery right now but don't worry it will thicken up once it starts cooling.  Add a lid and then add a ring and finger tighten.  Do not over tighten!

9.  Bring canning pot back to a full boil and add the jars to the canning basket making sure the jars do not touch.  Once the water is at a full boil add the basket with the jars to the pot and once it returns to a boil cover and let process for 10 minutes. 

10.  Remove the jars from the stockpot and let the jars cool.  After the jars have cooled check the lids which should be sucked down. Don't be surprised if while they are cooling you hear popping noises.  It is fine it is just the jars sealing themselves.  If the lid pops back store it in the fridge and enjoy!  

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