Peaches are probably my favourite thing about summer in Japan. Nature’s reward for sticking it out through the heat and humidity, I reckon. White peaches are the most common variety available here and they are delicious! There is nothing quite like biting in to a perfectly ripe peach while the sweet juice dribbles down your chin. We have mostly been enjoying them fresh (not always in the messy juice dribbling manner), either with muesli and yoghurt for breakfast or simply a few slices after dinner. But I started to wonder how else we could savour the sweet, fragrant fruit, particularly as our locally grown supply won’t last forever. My clever mum suggested jam. She makes jam every summer, usually apricot and as well as plum and I think she has done peach before too. Following Mum’s advice I found a Maggie Beer recipe for peach jam and consulted Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion for tips on preparing jars and how to know when the jam is cooked. With that and a mental image of mum in her apron, wooden spoon in hand, carefully watching over the pot of bubbling fruit and sugar, I set to work.
Peach Jam Adapted from Maggie Beer, The Cook and The Chef series
- 1.8kg ripe white peaches
- 900g sugar
- rind and juice of 1 lemon
- Wash peaches. Cut peach flesh off the stone and chop into pieces.
Place a large, heavy based saucepan over low heat. Add peaches, lemon rind and juice and allow to simmer in the juice that will ooze from the peaches, stirring occasionally. When fruit is soft and beginning to fall apart (maybe 20 minutes, but maybe longer) add the sugar. Once sugar has dissolved into the fruit increase the heat. Allow to boil rapidly until setting stage* has been reached, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. Be careful because the contents of your saucepan will be seriously hot.
Carefully ladle hot jam into hot sterilised jars* and top with the lids. Write some labels and store the jars in a cool dark place or share with family and friends.
*To test for setting stage
After adding the sugar to the fruit, place a small saucer in the freezer. When the jam thickens and you think it could be approaching setting stage place a teaspoonful on the chilled saucer and put it back in the freezer for 2 or 3 minutes to chill. With your finger draw a line through the middle of the jam and watch what happens… If the jam stays in two separate blobs, setting stage has been reached. If it all merges back to one, your jam will need a little longer on the heat. (I tested three times before this batch of jam was ready.)
*To sterilise jars
Wash jars and their lids in hot soapy water. Rinse well. Line a baking tray with a clean tea-towel and place the jars upside down on the tray. Place in the oven, set oven temperature to 150C and allow jars to dry in the hot oven, about 20 minutes should do it. Do this while the jam is cooking so that the jars are hot when you fill them.