I have a great story to tell you about the peach preserves I made for this month’s CanJam — the theme of which is stone fruit — hosted by The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking. But work has managed to sap every last ounce of my attention this week, and it’s already 11pm. Making matters worse, the hard-and-fast deadline for the CanJam roundup means this post must go up no later than midnight tonight. Time, it seems, is not on my side.
So you’ll just have to trust me when I say that the peaches we bought — the deep, aromatic, and complex-flavored ‘Oh Henry’ variety from Woodleaf Farm – were so damned perfect that we couldn’t bear to embellish them with the fancy ingredients we had originally planned to use. Instead, we turned to a formula that I learned years ago from preserves maven June Taylor, a simple recipe that lets the taste of the fruit shine.
We also wanted to preserve the deep blush of the peaches, so we didn’t peel our fruit before jamming. And truthfully, unless your peaches have problem skin, we recommend just giving them a quick rinse in cool water and drying them with a towel. Peeling is a pain in the neck, and you won’t notice the difference in the final preserve.
Perfectly Simple Peach Preserves
- adapted from June Taylor
3 pounds pitted ripe peaches
- rinsed, dried, and cut into bite-sized pieces
10 oz white sugar*
2-1/2 T lemon juice
1 T orange zest
4 8-oz canning jars and lids
Prepare canner, lids, and jars according to the usual method; keep jars hot until needed.
Toss together the ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and let sit, covered, overnight to allow the peaches to soften and release their juices.
Transfer the macerated fruit and juices into a heavy, wide stainless-steel pot, and bring to a boil, stirring as necessary. After the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer; stir frequently to distribute the mixture and prevent burning.
Actual cooking time will vary depending on the fruit’s moisture level and the speed of your simmer. Most batches are done at between 20 and 25 minutes; you don’t want to simmer longer than 30 minutes or the sugars will begin to caramelize.
As the mixture approaches a sauce-like consistency, stir constantly to prevent scorching. To test for proper gel, use the saucer test or watch for the liquid to sheet off the edge of a metal spoon.
When the preserves have reached the proper set, remove from the heat. Working quickly, ladle into hot prepared jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace as needed. Wipe rims and center lids on jars; screw band to fingertip-tight.
Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely submerged. Bring to a boil and process jars for 10 minutes with the canner lid on. When time is complete, remove canner lid and turn off heat; wait 5 minutes, then remove jars. Cool, check for seals, and store in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.
* Sugar can and should be adjusted depending on the fruit’s level of sweetness and your own taste. The sweetest fruit will require a ratio of 5.5 pounds of prepared fruit to 1 pound of sugar; the least-sweet fruit will be closer to 4:1.