There are few produce experiences more glorious than a perfectly ripe, succulent peach. Maybe that’s the Southerner that’s always been a part of me, even growing up in the Midwest. More than any other fruit, a sweet juicy peach just screams summer. So when I was perusing my local farm stand a couple weeks ago and found some mostly-ripe peaches, I couldn’t resist.
Living down here in Georgia, you’d think getting awesome peaches would be simple. Ironically, South Carolina leads the U.S. in peach production (after California, of course—what DON’T they produce more of??). But because we stuck our flag in the sand, Georgia is inextricably linked with peaches.
I had successfully made a no-pectin strawberry jam (simple and delicious!) a few times, so I wanted to branch out to other jam recipes. Problem was, I was having trouble finding pectin-free jam recipes. Fruit butters, yes. But no jams or preserves. So I decided to make one up. I read several different peach preserves recipes, and also somewhat replicated my strawberry jam recipe.
Good news—it turned out great! The only issue is that peeling the peaches takes much more work than just cutting up strawberries. But when you’ve got sweet, ripe summer peaches, it’s totally worth it.
The first order of business is to get the skins off these peaches. Boil some water, and also set aside a bowl of ice water. At the bottom (pointy end) of each peach, make a small “x” in the skin with a knife. Place in the boiling water for about 30 seconds. Remove from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and place immediately in the ice water. Once it’s sat in the cold water for around 30 seconds, remove and begin peeling the skin off at the “x”.
I wish I could tell you this makes it magically easy. Sometimes it does and sometimes you’re digging with your fingernails and eventually give up and take a knife to it. You win some, you lose some.
Once your peaches are peeled, slice in half, remove the pits, and then cut into small pieces.
Place all the peaches in a large saucepan and turn the heat on medium (around 5 on my stove).
Add around a half cup of sugar and stir into the peaches. I used a little under a half cup, I prefer not to over-sweeten my jam and the peaches were pretty sweet on their own.
Once the sugar is stirred in, leave everything be for a while. Eventually, the sugar and heat will begin pulling liquid out of the peaches. You may need to turn the heat down to keep everything from burning or caramelizing (I did).
Keep stirring the mixture every ten minutes or so, to keep it from sticking to the bottom. This will go on for quite some time.
You may notice the jam thickening too much and starting to burn. If this is the case, add a few tablespoons of water as needed, and stir in. I did this a few times throughout the first half hour it was cooking. I probably added close to a quarter cup of water total throughout the cooking process.
Keep cooking until the mixture has darkened somewhat and cooked down into a thick jam. It took about an hour or so total. It doesn’t hurt to keep cooking it, as long as it has enough liquid.
Because I didn’t want the pieces of peaches to be so big, I took my immersion blender to a few parts once I’d turned the heat off, just to break it up somewhat.
Add a splash of vanilla, and all done!
It had a good, thick texture and was sweet but retained some of the tartness.
Place in mason jars while still hot, put the lids on, and then immediately turn upside down (the heat helps seal the jars safely). It should keep for at least a month in the refrigerator.
And eat it! I had some the next day on my Irish soda bread. I’ve had it on scones, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, french bread—you name it, it’s delicious.
- Peaches (I used 4-5 peaches)
- Sugar (a little under 1/2 cup)
- Water (enough to keep it from over-thickening or burning; total I think I used around 1/4 cup)
- ~ 1 tablespoon of vanilla
Boil water, and set up a bowl of ice water as well. Cut a small “x” in the skin at the bottom point of the peach (not where the stem is), then place in boiling water for about 30 seconds. Remove from boiling water and place in ice water for another 30 seconds. Begin peeling skin off peach from “x”. When skin is removed, cut up the peaches into small pieces.
Put all peach pieces into a large saucepan, add sugar, and turn on burner to medium heat (4-5 on my stove). Stir everything together, and keep stirring every 5-10 minutes. If it appears to be over-thickening and burning, add a few tablespoons of water and stir in.
I cooked it a total of an hour or so. There’s nothing exact, just depends on how long it takes the peaches to totally soften and lose their shape. I took my immersion blender to it briefly, just to break things up. Then remove from heat. I transferred to the mason jars pretty quickly, then put the lids on and turned upside down (which helps it seal better, according to the French).