It’s been AGES since I made jam, and I’ve been wanting some lately! I picked up some peaches the other day, and decided it was high time to make up some jam. Now, the dilemma is always – I don’t need a huge batch. I realize that canning and preserving makes your jam last for a year, but seriously – we just don’t go through that much. I mean, I love a sweet treat, but it’s exactly that for us: a treat. So I pared down my family’s old mega-recipe to a small batch that makes up just three 4-oz. jelly jars. That’s the PERFECT amount to last us all year. You can still easily double this recipe up, of course. But I’m going to share with you today how to make easy jam with just 3 ingredients, without adding pectin. See, maybe I’m weird, but I feel like pectin makes it taste funny. I mean, I’m not bashing your recipe if you normally use it, but since you can make up jam without it – I just don’t add it. And it’s a totally simple recipe! This isn’t meant to be a canning and preserving 101 post, but I am going to gear it toward beginners, and give you this link to the National Center for Home Food Preservation: http://nchfp.uga.edu/. There’s a great chart there that will help you determine your processing time for this recipe based on your elevation (because it does vary!) and you can also check out some basic principles if you’ve never canned or preserved foods before. I’m going to assume you understand the basic canning process and you’ve done basic food safety research. And then, I’m going to show you that making up jam is definitely not intimidating. It’s easy enough that it’s even worth making a small batch like this one. You can do it in about an hour – let’s get to work! Let’s start with the recipe:
- 3 Tbsp. water
- ¾ c. sugar
- 3 fresh peaches (about 1 lb.) - you should get one 4 oz. jar of jam for each peach used.
- Juice from half a lemon (or about 2 tsp. lemon juice)
- I'll expand on these steps below, but this is meant to be an overview and basic recipe. First, sterilize your jars, and begin with new lids. Keep jars, lids and rings in clean hot water until ready to use. Prepare your boiling water canning bath with enough water to cover jars entirely by 1-2 inches. Water for your canning bath should be at a full rolling boil when jam is finished cooking on the stovetop, so start it early.
- Prepare your peaches by washing them well, and blanch them to easily remove the skins. (To do this, put them in boiling water for about 90 seconds, and then remove them to cold water.) Skins should slide off or peel off easily.
- Remove stones (or pits, whatever your family calls them) and dice peaches. Squeeze half a lemon over pieces and stir it well; this prevents them from browning and retaining a more appetizing color. Brown jam still tastes great, but that classic peach color is what we're going for.
- Mash pieces, or put in blender or food processor to chop. You still want some chunks, but you also want them to be small. I actually use a pastry cutter for this step.
- Add water to a small saucepan, and heat over medium heat. Stir in sugar. You will think it's way too much sugar to dissolve, but don't fret, it will! Stir constantly until sugar dissolves and the mixture gets smooth. Then, stir in your peaches.
- Now, cook them on medium heat until the sauce thickens. Stir them often, especially in the last 10-15 minutes, to keep them from burning at the bottom of the pan. Cooking will take around 45 minutes. You will know it's done when you pick up a spoonful, and it no longer runs off. See the quick video below for the texture example.
- Remove jars from water, and carefully add hot cooked jam to warm jars, leaving a ¼ inch window at the top of the jar. Wipe any jam from the mouth of the jar with a damp paper towel, and carefully stir the jam with a knife or bamboo skewer to remove any bubbles. Then, place lids on top, and screw ring onto jar. The ring shouldn't feel loose, but it doesn't need to be really tight.
- Place jars into boiling water canning bath. If the water cools, then wait until it returns to a boil, and then begin your processing time, which will vary by elevation. I am below 1,000 feet, so my processing time is a 5-minute boil.
- After processing, carefully remove from canning bath with tongs. Place on a towel in an out-of-the-way place that's not cold or drafty, and do not press down on lids. Let your jars rest for 24 hours before handling. Soon after they begin to cool, you should hear the lids pop as they seal. Mine took anywhere from 90 seconds to 10 minutes to pop and seal. It's okay if they take longer, as long as they seal on their own by the next day. Any jars that do not seal should be refrigerated and used first.
- Finally, tighten the rings, and store in a cool, dark place. Jam will last about a year with an unbroken seal.
A few notes – if you haven’t peeled peaches that will be cooked, it’s easy if you blanch them first. Putting them in boiling water for 90 seconds then removing them immediately to cold water will loosen the skins – you will probably be able to slip the skin off in on big piece with your hands. You may need to start the peel with a paring knife.
If you’re not familiar with sterilizing and preparing a canning bath, then check out the resources at the National Center for Home Food Preservation. It’s really the best guide I’ve seen out there, I can so infrequently that I always need a reminder about how long my processing times are. But in general – jars should be washed well and then boiled for 15 minutes to sterilize, lids should be new, and everything should be kept warm until the jam goes into it.
If you’re new to this, it’s not easy to know how thick your jam should be. So let me show you my quick spoon test:
When you are done boiling your jars, don’t tilt, shake, or push on them. Just rest them on a towel off in a corner with about an inch of space between them, and let them seal on their own. They’ll make a popping sound as they seal. Leave them to rest overnight – for at least 12 hours (24, if you can manage it). If anything doesn’t seal by the next day, refrigerate it. Properly sealed jars will keep for about a year.
Does your family do any canning or preserving? Do you make jam? What’s your favorite kind to make?