Wouldn't it be delicious to pop open a jar of preserves in the cold of winter and have them taste exactly like a fresh picked peach? That has been my goal this year. In the past I have always trusted the box of clear-jell or pectin that I buy in the local market. I have followed the recipes, dumping nearly a bag of sugar into each batch. Not so this peach season!
After doing some research, I gathered together a few different recipes (concepts, as I call them), and came up with a recipe that I think tastes fresh and just-picked. This recipe uses less sugar, and none of that boxed jelling agent. Thanks to a slower process, the natural pectin of the peaches helps to jell the fruit into a somewhat soft, but firm enough, preserve. I hope you enjoy!
No-Pectin Peach Preserves
Yields about 4 pints.
7 pounds fresh peaches
4 to 5 cups sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice, bottled or fresh
Prepare peaches by dropping in boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove, and when cool enough to handle, slip off peels and split in 1/2 removing pits. (Save peels and pits for Peach Peel Jelly!)
Place peaches in 6- to 8-quart pan and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. (Do not add water!)
Using potato masher, chop cooked peaches into small, preserve size pieces. Add lemon juice and sugar and return mixture to medium high heat, bringing to a boil.
Cook, stirring almost constantly to avoid scorching, to jelly stage, or about 220 F. This will take about 20 minutes.
Immediately fill hot, sterilized jars with preserves, leaving about 1/4-inch head space. (Here's a trick – I keep my clean jars in the oven at about 200 F – that way they are hot and won't crack when I add the hot preserves!)
Making sure rims and threads of jar are free of preserves, place hot lids and rings on firmly. For safety, process jars in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.
Remove jars from water bath, place on clean towels to cool. (To do it how my grandmother did – turn jars upside down for 20 minutes then flip them back upright.) Listen for the "ping" as the button on the lid inverts and it seals completely!
You can easily multiply the ingredients for a larger yield.
For more information and available resources about canning and preserving food, go to the GRIT Bookstore and search for "canning" or "preserving."