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Friday, August 2, 2013

Chai Peach Jam made with Custom Chai Blend

I confess - brown is not may favorite color for jam. It is a perfectly fine color for many delicious foods, but jam? I just don't know. This glossy brown jam compensates for its suspect appearance by packing a giant wallop of flavor. And, it's not just any flavor. It is Custom Chai flavor. Boom!

I made my first batch of chai in May, when I planned a special Super Surprise Birthday for my sister-friend, Miss Paula. (One of the really surprising things is that her actual birthday is in December.) The chai we had for her special breakfast was yummy, but I ended up putting a couple of big slices of orange zest in with the chai while it was simmering. This time, I decided to dry the zest and add it to the mix from the start. Summers in Sacramento can be scorching. I set these pieces of orange zest out in the morning and by afternoon they were completely dry. I set them in the sun with a baking rack and light cloth over the top. There are a lot of birds in my backyard! After this photo, I also added finely chopped fresh ginger. It was also dry within a few hours. If you do not want to make or purchase dry ginger pieces, you can use Ginger People Ginger Chips.

Brian and Rosie dropped a large paper bag full of tree-ripened peaches on my porch last weekend. A big brown bag is a lot of fruit. Just so you  know - A LOT! These peaches made four batches of jam using four pounds of prepared fruit in each! I had a similar experience with plums earlier this summer. I thought I would never get to the end of those plums! When there is a lot of fruit, I often search my sensory memory for tasty and safe flavor enhancements. This chai came to mind as a great match for peaches.

The nice thing about making your own chai is that you can alter it to fit your own tastes. I tweaked mine with the addition of orange peel, chopped vanilla beans and allspice. You might make this two or three times before you get it just right, but it's never bad and will never be wasted. I'm also thinking this would make a great holiday gift, if I ever need to give away something besides jam!

To prepare the peaches, bring a very large pot of water to boil with about 2 inches of space left at the top. Prepare a similarly large bowl with ice water. Cut a small X in the bottom of each peach. Drop them, a few at a time, into the boiling water and time them for one minute. Scoop them out and place them directly in the ice water bath. Now, put the next set of peaches into the water and repeat. Place the cooled peaches into bake pans as you remove them from the ice bath. If you start at the X end, the skins should slip right off. You may want to peel them over a strainer so that you can catch the rosy juice that drips off and add it back into the fruit. Once the pits are removed (an easy job with free-stone peaches like these) chop them roughly and measure 4 pounds of prepared fruit per batch. Place the measured fruit into a 9 x 13 inch bake pan and add 1/4 cup lemon juice. Mash with a potato masher until there are smallish pieces and some of the juice is released. Mix the prepared fruit with 4 cups sugar, cover with plastic wrap and allow to macerate before making the jam. I started this fruit on a Sunday and finished the final round of Jam on Thursday night.

Here is my chai blend with the dried orange zest and ginger added. Mix and store in an air tight container. Here's a tip - find your nearest Indian food store and buy spices there. Super cheap and good!

I made two batches of the jam with just the peaches and it turned out great. The next two batches were flavored with this chai sachet. You can use a metal tea ball, if you have one large enough. After the tea ball incident with the Cardamom and Pepper Plum Jam, I decided not to risk it and used cheese cloth. I used three folds worth of packaged cheese cloth, opened it up and folded it in half so that I had a two layer square. I placed the cheese cloth in a bowl and filled it with 1/2 cup of the chai blend.

To tie the bundle, bring up two of the diagonally opposite corners and tie into a knot.

 To finish, bring up the other two corners and tie into a knot. If there seems to be some extra, wrap the ends of the cloth around the knots and tie another knot. Your chai is now secure!

Peach....Chai Peach #1....Chai Peach #2

This jam is an example of how the smallest variables can make a big difference. The first batch of chai peach was made in a very large 8 quart pan with an 11 1/2 inch diameter opening. The second batch was made in my smaller large sauce pan, which has a 10 inch diameter opening. At first I couldn't figure out why the second batch got so much darker before it came to the right consistency. Then, I realized it was because the evaporation took longer and the chai had more time to infuse the jam. They both taste great, but I think Chai Peach #1 is more attractive. (Less brown.)

I think that the tannins in the black tea compliment the peaches nicely. Really fresh, tree-ripened peaches have an astringent after-taste that is reminiscent of the tannins in tea. If you don't want that little bit of bite in your jam, you can use the chai spices without using the black tea in the mix.

Chai Peach Jam
4 lbs. fresh peaches
4 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
2/3 cup apple pectin (or, one green apple, peeled, cored and chopped)
1/2 cup dry chai blend

Prepare the peaches as described above and refrigerate until ready to cook. Prepare 8 half-pint jars and lids and a boiling water bath. Place several spoons and saucers in the freezer.

Place the macerated fruit into a large pot and add the apple pectin or apple pieces. Bring to a boil. Add the chai sachet and continue to simmer until the jam starts to thicken and the foam subsides. Stir frequently, especially as the jam thickens. If you squish the chai sachet with the back of your spoon periodically, it will release more flavor. When the jam is glossy and thick, scoop a bit out with one of the spoons from the freezer and put the spoon back in the freezer on a saucer. Check the spoon in about two minutes. If it runs off the spoon easily and flattens on the saucer, cook more. When the jam plops off the frozen spoon and wrinkles when you push it across the saucer, it is ready. Remove the chai sachet and remove the jam from the heat. Skim any remaining foam. Carefully ladle into the prepare jars, wipe the rims and top with the prepared lids and rings. Process in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Carefully remove to a towel lined tray and allow to cool. Makes 7 or 8 half-pint jars.

Custom Chai Blend
2 cups loose leaf orange pekoe tea
1/2 cup whole green cardamom pods
1/2 cup broken cinnamon stick pieces
2 tbsp. whole cloves
1 tbsp. fennel seed
1 tbsp. whole rainbow pepper corns
1 tbsp. whole allspice
2 vanilla beans, chopped
dried orange zest from two oranges (organic! No wax needed here.)
1/3 cup chopped and dried fresh ginger or 1/2 cup Ginger Chips

Combine all and store in an air tight container.

To make chai:
Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil. Add 1/2 cup of the chai blend. Simmer about 10 minutes. Add 2 tbsp. honey (or sweetener of your choice) and strain. This is very concentrated and can be stored in the fridge to make individual cups of chai. To make the whole thing, warm 4 cups milk and add the entire batch of chai concentrate. Serve warm or cold.


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