Peach Jam with Apricots and Black Pepper
With a lot of help from Food in Jars
A word about sugar in jams. Yes, it is a lot of sugar. And no, I don’t recommend changing the ratio of fruit to sugar drastically. Sugar, besides acting as a flavor balancer to the fruit, works to create the right consistency.
12 medium peaches and 4 apricots (about 3 pounds of fruit)
3 cups granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 to 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Place a small, clean plate in the freezer. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While the water comes to a boil, make a small “x” incision on the peaches on the opposite side of the stem. Blanch the peaches, in the boiling water, for 1 to 2 minutes to remove the fuzz. Immediately transfer them to an ice bath and let cool. Peel and pit the peaches and give them a good, rough chop. Pit and chop the apricots as well.
2. In a large, wide (rather than tall) pot (a jam pot is ideal), combine the fruit with the sugar, and over medium heat, bring to a simmer. Stir in the lemon zest and juice, and vanilla and insert a candy making thermometer to monitor the temperature – you’re looking for that magic 220 degrees F, which is generally the temperature that jam sets at. Decrease heat to low and simmer the jam until it is of thick, syrupy consistency. Take your plate out of the freezer, and drip a tiny bit of jam onto it. Tilt the plate and watch the drip run down the plate. If it stops and gets thick midway, your jam is done. If it runs all the way down, keep simmering your jam. I like to make sure my jam reaches the required temperature and I get the right consistency, but sometimes one happens before the other, so just find a good middle ground. Jam, incredibly so, is a by-feel art. Tasting and smelling is key. My peach jam takes about 45 minutes give or take a few minutes.
3. While your jam is simmering, prepare a hot water bath in another pot (this pot you want to be tall) and sterilize your jars by boiling them in the hot water for about 10 minutes. Transfer the jars and their lids to a towel-lined counter, facing down. Set aside until needed. Keep the water simmering.
4. When your jam is just about done, add in the black pepper, stir, and let it simmer for about 2 minutes.
5. When jam is ready, ladle it into the jars, allowing for ½ inch head space on top. Place the lids on top of the jars, twist, and slowly lower them into a hot water bath. Let the jars “bathe”, simmering, for about 10 minutes. Using canning tongs, remove the jars and set them aside. Within 20 minutes or so, you should hear a bright “pop” of the lid. Try to press the top of the lids down, they should be flush and not have any “give”. If the center of the lid goes up and down with pressure, unscrew the jar, screw the lid back on, and repeat the hot water bath method.
Makes 3 pints and just a little extra to enjoy immediately (who’ll ever complain of that?)