Spiced Peach Jam...
With all of this comes a desire to cook and preserve, I am not sure why. Maybe it's the whispers of the generations of women that came before me that relied on the harvest being "put up" so they could eat through the winter. Or perhaps it is just the comfort that comes from having something warm bubbling away on the stove and the aroma that permeates every breath. Whatever it is, I like it.
I created this little jam or preserve, who knows what it's proper title should be? It has rich spices and the glorious sweetness of peaches all crammed into a little jar of golden vanilla flecked preserves. It screams fall!!! It is fantastic on freshly made warm bread, or warmed and drizzled over ice cream. I could eat it by the spoonful, but don't tell. Use really good local peaches for this recipe and make sure that they are packed with flavor. I used O'Henry peaches because they are slightly more firm and will hold their shape, and they are loaded with flavor. The spices get tied in a little cheesecloth bag and are set to simmer with the peaches. Don't rush this recipe, it needs a lot of time to cook down and develop the deep dark color and rich flavors that make it unique. I just bought an antique copper jam pot out of France, and let me tell you, it was so worth the purchase. The copper helps the jam cook evenly with no hot spots and reduces the risk of burning. I will never go back to another way to cook jam... ever! I am head over heals in love!!!
SPICED PEACH JAM
24 good sized peaches, peeled and cut into large dice
14 oz evaporated cane juice sugar (or you could use white sugar)
juice from 1 lemon
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
2 apple cores (it adds a little pectin and helps the jam thicken a little)
2 cinnamon sticks
1/4 tsp cloves
2 whole star anise
1/2 tsp black pepper corns
1 whole nutmeg
In a very large pot, add the peaches, sugar and lemon juice. Let this sit for 30 minutes to draw out the juices from the peaches.
Turn the heat to medium, being very careful to watch and stir the mixture so the sugar doesn't burn, add the vanilla beans and apple cores.
Take a small piece of cheesecloth that has been doubled for thickness and place the whole spices in the cheesecloth, bundle it up and tie it and add it to the mixture.
|Notice how the color has changed to a deep amber. Gorgeous!|
Cook until the mixture starts to boil, adjust the temperature to keep it at a very slow simmer, stirring often so it doesn't burn, but being careful so not to break apart the large pieces of peach. Cook for 2 hours, or until the color changes to a deep amber. Remove 2 cups of the mixture and put it in a food processor or blender and pulse to make a thick smooth jam. Add this back into the large pot with the remaining mixture. Continue to cook for about 20 minutes until the jam is thick and bubbly and coats the back of a spoon.
**You can freeze a plate and test the jam on the plate to see if it is thick enough. Remove the plate from the freezer, put a small spoonful of jam on the cold plate and turn it sideways. If the jam is thick and moves slowly in a mass, it is ready. If it runs down the plate quickly and breaks apart, it needs a bit more time on the heat.**
Once the jam has thickened, remove from the heat, remove the apple cores, vanilla beans and spices. Ladle into hot sterilized jars, clean rims, and apply lids. To freeze, let the jam cool to room temperature and then put in the freezer. To water can, process in a water bath canner for 20 minutes.