Making Perfect Peach Preserves

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Even now in July, summer colors are a bit faded. Perhaps it’s the fact that we’re way behind on rain, perhaps it’s a sign of early autumn coming. Whatever the reason, we look to the sweet crop of peaches on right now to bolster our taste buds and give us something wonderful to eat, can and preserve for future days.

Sometimes a peach crop is bountiful, as is this year’s. The best way to stay the moment is to preserve the bounty. Memories of many summer days can fit in between peach slices in a quart canning jar. In the 18th and 19th centuries, food preservation in the home was serious business and all possible ways of insuring food on the table were taken.

Between 1804 and 1831, three basic ways of preserving peaches were common. Brandy Peaches, Peach Chips (dried) and Peach Cordial were popular “rules” (recipes, receipts) found in most southern homes.

By 1877, Ohio cooks were canning, making jelly, preserves, marmalade and otherwise cherishing the fruit with unique ways of serving the sweet, sweet taste of summer.

One of the most elaborate ways back then to serve peaches was called Peach Pyramid. The receipt was written in paragraph form and found in the Buckeye Cookery Book of 1877. A dozen peaches were used, being halved and peeled. Half of the seed kernels were blanched and added to the sugar syrup and peaches. Everything was cooked, some of it longer than the rest. Lemon juice and something called isinglass was dissolved into the hot syrup. All elements were placed in a mold in layers and let set, each layer taking its own time. It was called an “elegant ornament” of dining.

Today, at in the middle of canning season, there is hardly time to bake a pie, let alone work with food ornamentation. We work on putting by for the winter when we’ll relish the ornamentation of our toast with this peach preserve and think of another summer to come.

Peach Preserves

4 pounds of peaches
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 box powdered pectin (i.e. Sure-Jell)
7 cups granulated sugar

Peel and pit peaches. Thinly slice fruit to measure 4 cups. It is alright if there is slightly more. Combine fruit, lemon juice and pectin in jelly kettle. Stir in sugar completely.

Bring to a rolling boil. Boil hard for one minute stirring constantly. Remove from heat, skim off any foam and place it in a saucer. It is quite good itself.

Pour hot preserves into clean, hot jelly jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Adjust new hot lids and rings. Process ten minutes in a boiling water bath. Yield is about 6 jelly jars (12 ounces).

If for any reason jars do not seal as they cool, refrigerate them and use first. Always follow the most recent canning and freezing guidelines for food safety.