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Saturday, July 30, 2011

White Peach and Raspberry Jam

Many people view white peaches and nectarines as exotic and preferable to the regular orangey-gold varieties. The white ones have their own charms, and when ripe can have a sweetness that is like honey. However, for traditional peachy tang and bright acidity, I go for the gold.

These white peaches came from a backyard tree and were very ripe by the time I received them. I had no trouble slipping the skins away from the juicy flesh. I chopped them and immediately dropped them into acidulated water to preserve their color. I then drained them and mixed them with 1/4 cup lemon juice and 3 cups sugar and stuck them in the fridge to macerate. Taste tests revealed a sweet but bland flavor, so I decided to combine with raspberries. There is no substitute for using your own taste buds and imagination to create good flavor marriages. Raspberries and peaches are a traditional combination (remember Peach Melba?) and I knew that raspberries would deliver the sharp, acidic punch I found missing.
Do the macerata baby!
The flavor of this jam is outstanding. The proportion of raspberries to peaches lets each shine. Raspberries are definitely the forward high note, but the peaches bring a summery smoothness this jam would not have without them. Texture continues to be my most challenging target. This jam turned into a spread that mounds softly. It works, and I have determined that I much prefer a soft set to a jam that has become over cooked and gummy. I'm used to the consistency that comes from commercial pectin, but I like the flexibility of working without it. I can use any amount of fruit and sugar as long as the acidity comes in to safe ranges. I think this jam might have set a little more firmly had I used more sugar. Still, I'm pleased and Mr. Dwayne loves it and has almost finished the little dish of foam and extra that wouldn't fill a jar.

I'm really happy that my jam making has come to a point that someone can give me a bag of fruit and I can use my taste and my skills to whip up something with confidence.

White Peach and Raspberry Jam
3 1/2 lb.s peaches, peeled and chopped to equal about 8 cups
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 six oz. boxes fresh raspberries
3 cups sugar

The day before you jam, combine all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and place in the refrigerator to macerate overnight. Stir gently several times.

The day of canning, prepare jars and lids and a boiling water bath. Place several spoons on a saucer in the freezer.

Place the fruit mixture in a large sauce pan and bring to a boil. Boil, stirring frequently, until the jam reaches about 220 degrees. My jam became thick before this temperature and required a lot of stirring to prevent scorching. When the jam is nearing the desired temp, test by scooping a small amount on to one of the frozen spoons. Place the filled spoon back on the saucer in the freezer for a few minutes. When it has come to room temp, tilt the spoon and if it runs off the spoon easily cook a little more. I had to test 5 or 6 6 times before I got to the texture I desired. I decided mine was done when it mounded softly.

When the jam is ready, remove it from the heat and skim off all foam. Stir for a minute to distribute fruit evenly. Carefully fill jars, wipe rims and cover with lids and rings. Process in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and let the jars stay in the water for 5 minutes before removing carefully to a towel lined tray. Let the jars seal and stand overnight before labeling.

Makes 4 half pint jars plus one tiny 4 oz. jar.

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