The farmer’s markets are full of peaches right now, a little past their prime which is perfect for jam-making. Last Saturday I bought a big box of peaches for $16 and made 3 batches of jam on Sunday as they had ripened so fast as to be almost spoiling – two of freezer jam and one the old-fashioned boiled on the stove way.
Unlike last year, where I experimented with different types of pectin, I just used the Bernardin No Sugar Needed brand as I don’t like jam to be too sweet, although I did add 2/3 of a cup of sugar as the package insert suggested. I like to be able to taste the peaches. Of course there is nothing so lovely as a big bowl of peaches peeled and sliced on their own, or mixed with some vanilla yogurt.
I woke up with a sore right shoulder (probably from carrying the box), so I recruited my mother to help peel the peaches, which she enjoyed very much as it reminded her of all the canning she did on the farm. My nostalgia for homemade jam was one of the memories which lead to the creation of the homeplace blog (see Out in The Country).
For more canning memories, you can check out last fall’s unpublished blogs, Jamfest and Lavender and Pears, (although it is not quite pear season yet).
Peach jam is best served in January during a blizzard while looking out the window at two feet of snow and dreaming of summer….
(200 words – almost makes up for the last weeks 4000)
There were pear trees on the homeplace and every year my father would make pear marmalade. At least he said he made it, but in reality I think he just collected the pears and helped my mother peel them. This was during the late seventies when I was away at school so there was no witness to this event but as in his later years when he used to vacuum the dog hair from the carpet and called himself a regular Molly Maid, I suspect it was a bit of an exaggeration. For a decade or so, my mother made peach jam, pear marmalade and three fruit marmalade. I remember taking jars of it to university in the fall and having it for breakfast in my dorm if I didn’t go down to the dining hall. I didn’t go home very often as it was too far away, but one year when I had been in hospital with a kidney stone they brought me a fresh supply – it was like a taste of summer in February, and much better than the store-bought stuff. I don’t know the difference between jam and marmalade and preserves, but it was all boiled down on the stove.
I made it the old-fashioned way last year with two $4 baskets of pears and it was good, but having learned my lesson from the peach jamfest, I decided to stick to the freezer jam recipe from Certo Light – less work and still good flavour. Only it wasn’t good flavour. There wasn’t a recipe for pear jam on the package insert so I used the one for peaches. The pears were overripe, (I had gotten distracted by preparing for a tea party for the Group of Seven Art Ladies) so basically the whole mixture turned to mush. I added too much pectin, and not enough sugar, so it came out very gel-like. Basically, it was edible, but barely. I stuck in the freezer anyway, but it will probably end up being thrown out. I much preferred last years, but it was ore time consuming.
You can buy quite lovely jam at the farmer’s market for $5 a jar. The stand owner told me it is made from the juice and pectin, as they make it year round and you can’t get fresh fruit in the winter, but the taste is quite good. I buy the crabapple jelly, but there are all kinds of exotic flavours like gooseberry jam (we had an old gooseberry bush too, which would produce one or two berries a year), Saskatoon jam, red current jelly, plum jam etc. When I was at the museum craft sale last Sunday there were several tables selling homemade jams and jellies – hey let someone else do the work! I think that’s why my mother quit canning.
The lavender harvest is in…. sixteen small mesh (party store) bags. I placed them on the harvest tea table as party favours but they are quite lovely for lingerie drawers, or tucked under a pillow for sweet dreams.