This past week we had a chance to combine many of our favorite things…family, tradition, cooking, and gift giving. After being inspired by the peach tree in the Carters’ backyard, we decided it would be fun to make Peach Preserves. We took up canning the summer before our wedding when we decided to give out Strawberry Jam as our favors. That summer was an assembly line of fun. We bought strawberries by the bushels and Grannie schooled us in the art of canning. Grannie has canned food her whole life and barely needed a recipe.
This was our first summer in North Carolina without Grannie and making the Peach Preserves was a happy way to celebrate her memory. I can still see Grannie standing on a stepstool, refilling her bird feeders, swatting those pesky squirrels away from her peaches. It would probably make a better story if we told you we used the peaches from that tree, but the truth is those squirrels are quick and eat our fruit before they have time to ripen.
We went to the local produce stand and picked us up a ½ peck of peaches as Bobbie, my mother-in-law, instructed us to do. Alright, to be completely honest, we had no idea how much ½ a peck was, so we just filled up a bag. Chad did attempt to get help from a friendly looking, snuff-dipping stranger. She wasn’t able to tell us how many peaches to buy, but she did insist we make her recipe for Peach Jell-o Jam instead because, according to her, it was a lot easier. Unfortunately, she didn’t have it on her but offered to take our phone number and call us with it later. Gotta love those Southerners. Because I’m a “Yankee” I gave her Chad’s cell number just to be safe.
Once we got home it was time to get to work. Bobbie led our cooking crew this year. She has some great memories of canning throughout her life and told us stories about learning the basics in her Home Economics class. The best part of making preserves is that there are many different steps, so the whole family can get involved. Chad & I peeled the peaches. Ed, my father-in-law, pitted and diced them while Bobbie sterilized the jars. Bobbie & I measured out the ingredients, then read and re-read the instructions to make sure we didn’t mess anything up. Once you start the cooking process it seems like everything goes quickly, so it’s important to have all your tools and ingredients ready to go.
The most crucial part of canning is to make sure all your jars are sterilized and hot. This is also the reason canning seems so intimidating, but don’t let it scare you, it’s not that hard. Simply wash your lids in soapy water, rinse and then put them in a pot of hot water on the stove to keep them warm. We put the jars in the dishwasher set to light load.
We love giving homemade gifts but it can be hard to find the time to make something when you realize you need a gift. Setting aside time to make jam is a great way to have a delicious gift on hand to bring to your next housewarming party or give to a friend who did you a favor. Since we wanted to give these as gifts we decided to use the small 4oz jelly jars. After searching through rows of fabric at two different stores, we found the perfect pre-cut peach themed fabric squares right next to the mason jars in Walmart for less than 4 dollars. Thank you, Better Homes & Gardens!
Since our new friend Alice’s Jell-o Recipe intrigued us and we wound up buying 3 times the amount of peaches we needed for our recipe, we tested out hers as well. Below is Sure-Jell’s Peach Jam Recipe & Alice’s Peach Jell-o Jam Recipe. We still think Sure-Jell’s is easier to make (14 minutes less of stirring hot peach lava), but Alice’s recipe does taste a lot peachier!
Whichever one you decide to make (or if you choose to do something completely different), we hope you get together with your family this week and do something as a group.
What You Need
4 cups prepared fruit (about 3 lb. fully ripe peaches)
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 box SURE-JELL Fruit Pectin
½ tsp. butter or margarine (optional)
5-1/2 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl (See tip below.)
BRING boiling-water canner, half-full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.
PEEL and pit peaches. Finely chop fruit. Measure exactly 4 cups prepared fruit into 6- or 8-quart saucepot. Add lemon juice; stir until well blended. Stir in pectin. Add butter to reduce foaming, if desired. Bring to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly.
STIR in sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.
LADLE immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with 2-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 minutes. Remove jars and place upright on towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. (If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)
ALICE’S PEACH JELL-O JAM RECIPE
What You Need
3 cups peaches – pealed, pitted & diced
3 cups sugar
6 oz Peach Jello
Mix ingredients together in pot
Once it comes to a boil, cook for 15 minutes, stir occasionally
Immediately pour into jars
Wipe rim & screw on lids
Let cool & store in pantry
Refrigerate 8 hours before serving