This past Fall my wife was out and about and had stopped at this little Amish farm that also runs a bakery out of their house. She loves to stop there to pick up their Bacon-Cheese Bread, Pecan Sticky Buns and their soft Pretzels. This day they had a number of boxes of peaches sitting outside with a sign telling people that they were free. Word was that they had gotten partially frozen and now weren’t any good for what they needed them for. Well Wanda picked up a box and brought them home. They ended up being quite mealy in texture so they weren’t very good for eating although they had great flavor which means they would be great for cooking. Pie was made. Cobbler was made, and of course, preserves were made.
Being me, I couldn’t just make plain old Peach Preserves. I had to dress it up a little so I made Gingered Peach Preserves and Bourbon Peach Preserves, but if these don’t interest you, no problem. The recipe starts off as plain Peach Preserves and I just add to it. If you want them plain then just skip the add-ins and continue to follow the recipe. Also, this recipe doesn’t use any pectin and relies on cooking down the preserves to the proper consistency. This results in a jam that may not be as fresh and vibrant tasting as a short cooked jam, but you end up with a deeper, more concentrated flavor. In my opinion neither is better…just different from each other.
Peach Preserves 3 Ways – Plain, Gingered or Bourbon
makes 8-10 half pints
8 pounds Peaches
5 cups Sugar
1/3 cup Lemon Juice
1/2 cup Candied Ginger, chopped fine (optional)*
1/2 cup Bourbon (optional)*
*(double portion if you only want to make one type and will be using the whole batch)
Big a large pot of water to a rolling boil. While waiting for the water to boil, cut a shallow “X” in the blossom end of each peach. Also prepare an ice bath. Clean and sanitize your sink then fill with cold water and about 2-3 pounds of ice. When your water comes to a boil add a few peaches at a time and cook for 1-1 1/2 minutes, stirring constantly to make sure all sides get time in the boiling water. Transfer immediately to the ice bath. Repeat until all the peaches have been blanched.
Using the back of a knife gently scrape the skins from the peaches. If you cooked and chilled them properly the skins should easily come off. Cut the peaches in half, remove the pits, and then roughly chop. Divide the peaches, sugar, and lemon juice in half and place in 2 large, non-reactive pots. Add the candied ginger to 1 pot and the bourbon to the other. Alternatively, if just making 1 kind of preserves, place all the peaches, sugar and lemon juice in 1 pot. Double the portion of bourbon or ginger if adding to the whole amount of peaches.
Cook over medium heat until the juices start to develop then turn up to medium high. Gently mash the pieces to reach the texture you prefer. I like my preserves a little chunky so I don’t mash too much.
Place a couple of saucers in the freezer. While the preserves are cooking prepare your jars and lids for canning-sterilize your jars and lids, get the water boiling in your canner. Don’t forget to stir the preserves regularly while doing this so that they don’t stick and burn.
Cook the preserves for 20-25 minutes before you start checking for doneness. To test for the jellying point I use 2 methods. First is the “sheeting” method. Dip a cool metal spoon into the preserves and pull it out of the steam rising off the pot. The preserves should come off altogether as 1 “sheet.” If it drips off in single drips, one after the other, you still have a ways to go. If it starts off as 2 drips that then meld together you still have a little ways to go. If it sheets off the spoon you should be there. At that point I then double-check with the “cold plate” test. Place a small mound of the preserves onto one of the plates you put in the freezer. Place it back in the fridge for about 30 seconds then remove. If the preserves hold its shape when the plate is tilted they are done. If it runs then you need to cook a little longer. You can also run your finger through the mound. If it runs back together cook a little longer. If it hold the line you drew then they are done.
At this point, transfer to your canning jars, leaving a 1/4″ headspace. Top with lids, per the manufacturer’s directions and process, in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove from the water and allow to cool, on a cooking rack until room temperature. Store any open preserves in the fridge.