Whatever you would like to call this fruit spread is fine with me, as long as I get to eat a lot of it! This summer we had a minor peach incident in the Locavorious kitchen (hey, who forgot the vitamin C?!) which resulted in yours truly taking home a couple of pecks worth of very ripe peaches from Wolfe Orchard. Having already discovered the joys of jam during strawberry season, I was happy to be “stuck” with lots of juicy, ripe fruit. I made it into what I thought of as peach jam, canned some, and made the rest into large quantities of peach jam dessert bars, yummy, yummy, most of which ended up at Hollerfest, and ate the rest. When I finally had some time to consult the Ball Book of Home Preserving, I discovered that what I thought of as peach jam was really more of a peach butter.
Most of our peaches this year came from Wolfe Orchard in Tipton, Michigan, and a couple bushels came from Karpo Farms across the street. Orchardist Mary Wolfe and her assistant Sue were at the Ann Arbor Farmers market on Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout the season, and they will still be bringing apples and cider to market through December. Mary was very helpful in telling us when the peaches were harvested, which varieties preserve well, and how long we should let them ripen. Peaches are the only Locavorious fruit or vegetable that has something added to it before freezing; every peach half has been dipped in a vitamin C – water bath to minimize browning. Even so, if you thaw peaches before using them, the browning will start again, so just add frozen peaches to recipes straight from the freezer.
Peach jam or butter is a super easy, delicious way to enjoy your Wolfe Orchard peaches this winter. The peach skin, especially the skin of Red Havens and Garnet Beauties, gives the jam a lovely pink blush. (I don’t recommend it, but the peach skins are easily removed if you prefer by running the peach halves under hot water for a couple seconds.) This jam uses less than ½ the amount of sugar found in typical jam recipes, but it seems to be plenty with our perfectly ripened local peaches. Since I still happened to have a lot of extra frozen peaches at home I made a double recipe:
2 lbs frozen peaches
¼ cup water
~ ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest and ~ 3 T fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
Put the frozen peaches, water, lemon zest and lemon juice in a medium size saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat. Break apart the frozen peaches, reduce heat and boil gently for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until peaches are soft and falling apart. For peach butter: cool peaches and transfer to food mill or blender, or use a stick blender and puree to a uniform texture. Return to saucepan and reheat. Skip this pureeing step for jam. Add sugar to the saucepan and stir until dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil again, stirring, then reduce heat and boil very gently, stirring often, until the mixture thickens. This step always seems to take longer than I expect, but it shouldn’t be much more than another 20 minutes. The jam or butter is done when it holds its shape on a spoon. Another easy test for jammin’ is to spoon a small amount of the jam/butter onto a cold plate – if it holds its shape and doesn’t run, the jam is ready. Cool and refrigerate until ready to enjoy.
(While the jam or butter is still hot you could also preserve it by processing in a water bath canner, but this recipe only makes about 3 pints.)
Now you’ve got lovely peach butter to top toast, biscuits, or scones or to mix into yogurt, cottage cheese or baked goods. I’m going to use this batch for either jam thumbprint cookies or another round of those peach jam bars.