Preserving Summer: Easy Homemade Peach Jam

I was excited when the boxes of peaches arrived. Large, gorgeous, and fragrant, I was promised that within a couple days they would be ripe and juicy. Each morning I tested them, pressing my finger into the delicate fuzzy flesh checking for any sign of tenderness. On the third day the flesh finally gave way a bit and the aroma that had been merely lovely at first was now nothing short of intoxicating.

My plan had been jam all along, but Eugene had asked me to save him a few for eating out of hand. And I couldn't resist taking a bite on my own. So I did, but I'd picked a bad one; dry, mealy, not a single drop of juice. I put it down and tested another only to find the same thing.

Finally I picked up my knife and started running through the seam on each peach; it cut right through, the stone not even giving any resistance. In a matter of minutes I'd cut through several pounds of peaches not finding a single one worth eating.

I was disappointed. Frustrated and furious even. This isn't right. These peaches had so much promise, but there were all ruined because of a corporate insistence on picking them too early, storing them to preserve their outer beauty with complete disregard for what was within.

And so I wrote a letter to Fresh Direct, the grocery delivery service that had promised me these were highly rated, and explained my disappointment with the peaches, with them, with the commercial fruit industry in general. To their credit, they responded quickly, issuing me a credit for the near $20 I had spent and apologizing. (And to be fair, I'm happy with Fresh Direct's produce about 98% of the time so this was definitely a rare exception.)

But I was still left with a counter full of dry, mealy, and bruised peaches. What to do with mealy peaches?

I decide to proceed with my jam plan anyway, scooping out the cores and dropping them into a pot of boiling water to loosen the skins. Eugene asked for a chunky jam so I left them in halves and combined with just over half their weight (once pitted and skinned) in sugar and lemon juice.

It wasn't long before they started to wake up. A bright golden color taking over the pot as they bobbed in the syrup. I stirred occasionally and skimmed of the peach foam that developed on top and then, in about an hour, I had my jam.

The results of my spreadable fruit were gorgeous and unlike anything I've ever tasted from a store. The peach flavor is bright, with a sultry caramel-like undertone.

I'm so glad I didn't give up on those mealy peaches; it's incredible to see how something so ugly transformed into something so lovely.

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Peach Jam Recipe (no pectin)
Makes about 4 1/2 pints

Print this Recipe

6 pounds ripe peaches
3 1/4 pounds granulated sugar
2 lemons, juiced

Bring a large pot of water to boil. While it boils, cut an x in the skin at the top of the peaches. Drop into the boiling water in batches, letting boil for about a minute each. The skin should loosen and slip off easily with a bit of pressure.

Halve and pit the peaches, cutting down into smaller pieces for a smoother jam (I left my halved because I like a chunky texture.)

Combine the peaches with the sugar and lemon juice in a large heavy pot. Let sit for one hour until the sugar has dissolved and the peaches have given up their juice. Stir well then bring to a boil and lower to a gentle simmer. Let cook for about 60 to 70 minutes, stirring occasionally and skimming off the foam that rises to the top, until the fruit mixture thickens and reduces. The color will also deepen to a gorgeous golden peach tone. Test the jam by dropping a teaspoon of syrup on a plate and popping in the freezer until it cools. Tilt the plate on its side; the dollop of syrup should wrinkle and shift slightly but not run down the plate. If it's set, the jam is ready to jar.

Pour into clean, sterilized jars (this makes about 4 1/2 pints) and process according to your favorite method, or let cool before refrigerating or freezing.

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