I'm back in slipper socks. And the oversized hand-knitted comfy monster affectionately known as the rice pudding cardigan. Unless we get a renewed late effort from the weather here in the UK that's it for summer but I couldn't let it go without making at least one batch of jam. I love the alchemical process and maybe a little bit of the danger involved too. I've made strawberry jam before, and this blackberry jam went lovely in my mini Bakewell tarts but this year I had a fancy to make peach jam so peach jam it was.
Most people know the basics of making jam. In short, boil equal weights of chopped fruit and sugar with bit of pectin until it reaches 105 C and pour into sterilised jars. Easy. Now this is where I get a bit touchy and go against so many foodie experts. You do not need to add pectin or use that much sugar. Being a chemist (in training, final year starts in September) and having spent the last year doing research into pectins and other food based polysaccharides, I am adamant on this. Even fruits with a lower pectin content don't need it adding. The key is to extract the fruits own pectin and make that work hard instead of spending your money on expensive jam sugar. Promise.
If the mmmmmmm-ness (totally a word) of the jams I've made isn't proof enough for you then let me point you in the direction of this post from one of my favourite blogs and then this one too. To summarise, the pectin dissolves out of the plant cell walls and into the fruit juice released when the fruit is cut. Then the sugar marches in and helps to rebuild the structure where necessary so water can be trapped after the acid (in the form of lemon juice) neutralises the negative charges in the structure which repel the pieces of the structure which need to invade each others personal space for the gel to form. Jam = best tasting gel ever.
I could explain where exactly these negative charges occur but that would involve diagrams and lengthy explanations of hairy and smooth regions, what the difference is between alpha and beta 1,4-GalA is and the gelling requirements of high and low methylated pectins. This is a baking blog after all, not a journal article. I've done one of those. They're only interesting in their own unique circumstances. It is sufficient to say that the best way of getting that pectin out of the fruit is to leave it to sit for a while. Mix it with the sugar and leave it alone. Just like this.
I have spent a daft amount of lab time extracting pectin from melons so even though it looks like nothing is happening, I know the right stuff is going on. You could add more sugar but you don't need to. Granted it will mean boiling time will be shorter as you will reach the right sugar concentration faster but really, save yourself the cost. Think about it, jams have been made for centuries to preserve fruit when refrigeration and freezing methods weren't available. Sugar used to be mega expensive and only for the rich so the poorer folk who needed to preserve all they could for as long as possible would have used the minimum amount they could get away with. I swear it tastes better this way too. More fruity and less saccharine sweet. More mmmmmmm-ness.
Spread it on toast, put it into a tart or bake it into muffins. There are so many uses for jam. This one is refreshingly flavoured with a beautiful hit of fruit and all the sensations of the bright summer months that peaches evoke. One final note. My jam is so dark because I didn't peel the peaches. Feel free to get rid of the skin though if you prefer but I should warn you that the skin is where a lot of the important pectin resides alongside the good for you fibre. I really hate jams with massive lumps of fruit in but after mushing up the peach chunks as part of the process the skin isn't a bother at all. It adds something more to the flavour I think. That's another promise.
Summery, fruity and sweet. An ideal way to make summer stretch into the months ahead. Ideal for breakfasts and baked goods alike.
- 1kg peaches, stones removed and roughly diced
- 430g granulated sugar
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
1. Stir toghether the diced fruit and the sugar in a large saucepan and set aside for about an hour. Use this time to sterilise a few jars by washing them in hot soapy water, rinsing in clean water then heating in an oven at about 140 C for 20 mins or so.2. Place a saucer in the fridge and bring the fruit mixture to a bowl and maintain for 10 mins over a high heat, stirring frequently so nothing burns at the bottom.3. Add the lemon juice and mash the fruit to your desired level of chunkiness with a potato masher. Boil for a while longer, again stirring very frequently, until the jam reaches 105 C on a sugar thermometer. A confirmation test, or if you don't have a thermometer is to remove fromthe heat, place a tsp of jam on the cold saucer and put back in the fridge for half a minute. Push a finger through it and if it wrinkles it is ready. If not, boil and stir some more.4. Once ready, pour or scoop the jam into your sterilised jars right to the top and cover with discs of baking or waxed paper. Screw on the lids and leave to cool completely.
I'm just in time to squeeze this into Shaheen's Vegetable Palette challenge over at Allotment 2 Kitchen where the theme is mellow yellow and orange. Before the concentration of colour in the jam making process the shades found in peaches make this recipe ideal.