All That Jam

          The farmer’s markets are full of peaches right now, a little past their prime which is perfect for jam-making.  peachesLast 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For more canning memories, you can check out last fall’s unpublished blogs,  Jamfest and Lavender and Pears, (although it is not quite pear season yet).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)

Peaches for Sale - AMc

Peaches for Sale



Lavender and Pears

Pears & Lavender -AMc-Aug/17

Lavender & Pears – Aug 2017

         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.

Pear Marmalade

Pear Marmalade

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. 

Lavender harvest  

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. 


Song of The Day:  A Partridge in a Pear Tree – click here for music link                                                      – Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters

Sorry, but it’s the only song I could come up – may I be forgiven for reminding people that it’s only 3 months until Christmas.


Freezer Peach Jam

Freezer Peach Jam

TCanning Peaches


There was a jamfest in my kitchen last weekend in honor of August.   I had bought a big box of canning peaches from the Saturday morning farmers market for $9 – they were seconds, overripe but perfect for canning – there must have been over fifty peaches in the box – the guy who owned the stand had to carry it to the car for me, but they needed something done with them stat.     It was my first time making peach jam and after some google research I still couldn’t decide what recipe to use so I decided to make three small batches – two freezer jam and one the old-fashioned preserves way.   For the first batch of freezer jam I used the Certo Light Pectin – 3+ cups of peaches, but I cut the pectin and sugar in half, ½ package pectin and approx.. 1 ½ cups of sugar – it was just right – made 4 little jars and one plastic container.  The dollar store jars were cute but the lids were not the best – the  grocery store was out of the standard jars.   Freezer jam can be stored for 3 weeks in the fridge and for 8 months in the freezer.   It was fairly runny so I’m not sure it set properly but then I had cut the amount of sugar in half and the directions warned against doing that….but it was still plenty sweet enough!   I’m not sure why this recipe had you sprinkle the pectin and ¼ cup of sugar over the crushed fruit for 30 minutes stirring occasionally, whereas the Bernardin No Sugar recipe called for boiling the pectin with apple juice, but there is a chemical reason behind it according to one of the websites, for those who like a little chemistry with their canning.   It has something to do with the ph and acid molecules but since I am retired from all that it didn’t stick in my brain.  

         The second freezer batch was Bernardin No Sugar Needed Pectin – and I followed the recipe on the box exactly this time, boiling the pectin in 1 ¾ cups unsweetened apple juice, then adding to 3 cups crushed peaches, 1 tbsp lemon juice, and 2/3 cup of sugar as recommended.   It set thicker, and there was lots of nice peachy taste, but it could have used more sugar.  Maybe the tart apple juice cancelled out some of the sweetness?   Made 8 smallish plastic containers.    

        The third and largest batch which we made on Sunday (I put my mother to work helping to peel the peaches…she said she enjoyed it, it brought back old memories), was made the old-fashioned way with sterilized jars and boiling the fruit with sugar but no pectin…..8 cups of peaches and 2 cups of sugar.   Last year I had made pear marmalade with 8 cups of pears and 3 cups of sugar and found it way too sweet, so I cut back on the sugar.  But this batch, while it had plenty of peach flavour, could also have used more sugar.  Made six 250ml jars.   Many of those old fashioned recipes call for a 2:1 ratio of fruit to sugar, (the sugar acts as a preservative), including the Purity Cookbook, which I tend to use as my food bible as it is the reissued edition of the original Canadian classic my mother used when we were growing up.   My mother’s copy is dog eared and stained, whereas mine is still in fairly pristine condition, which might give you an idea about how often I cook.  Unlike the Pioneer Woman I will not be appearing on the Food Network anytime soon.  That cookbook being old, originally published in 1917, uses the paraffin method of putting a bit of melted wax over the top to seal the jar, which I did, but it is no longer recommended according to my online search.  Apparently it does not make a good seal and people do not like having to fish hydrocarbons out of their jam so I am not recommending it – do not try this at home.   It is a wonder we all survived when our grandmothers knew nothing about organic molecules.

       Unlike Goldilocks, none of the recipes were just right, but the best was the first – Certo Light… if I could only remember exactly how much sugar I added as I didn’t make any notes and just sweetened to taste…..a bad habit I picked up from my mother.  It’s hard to get a recipe out of her because like many experienced cooks she doesn’t measure, and if she does give you a recipe it never quite turns out like hers.    My mother used to store her canned goods on pantry shelves in the cellar, but I put mine in the freezer and fridge.   I figure if there is a nuclear war and we are forced to use the basement as a bomb shelter, at least no one will die of scurvy.     

Peach Preserves

Peach Preserves

The Purity Cookbook

Music for a Jam Session – Duke Ellington – C Jam Blues  – click music link here

Peaches in a Blue Bowl - AMc 2017

Peaches in a Blue Bowl – 2017

Postscript:  Feb 2018 – the first batch Certo Light tasted good at the time but did not keep well and had to be discarded, it might have been the dollar store lids, and I reduced the sugar which they said not to do.  The Bernardin No Sugar batch tasted wonderfully peachy even in Feburary.