When I think of making jam, there is just one essential that springs to my mind – the iconic and ridiculously sized berry pan. I have two in my family; one at my Granny’s which used to reside at the top of her kitchen cabinets next to vintage scales and a ‘pig’ hot water bottle before her recent kitchen refit. My Grammy’s pan (her mother’s I believe) now lives at my Mam and Dad’s underneath the hob as a sort of large container for kitchen odds and ends – last time I checked it housed ice lolly moulds and a game for table-top curling. Yet despite their decorative and storage uses, they have helped to make jar after jar of luscious fresh fruit jams, lemonades, a batch of ginger ale and one ingenious use that involved cooking a very large lobster.
I remember a good few summers of jam making with my sister and Granny, lugging plastic punnets up row upon row of strawberry and raspberry plants at Pick Your Own’s in the north-east, sneaking handfuls of Scottish ripened soft fruits into my mouth. The sweetness that comes with the varied seasons – all sun and rain of it – ensure those fat Scottish strawberries will always trounce their sun-soaked sisters in Spain. It almost seems criminal to pour bag upon bag of sugar over the hulled fruit, but as it breaks down and becomes so deliciously jammy, you understand the reasoning behind it. Blipping contentedly as you stir…and stir…and stir some more. But a word of warning – wearing a white t-shirt during this process is ill advised. There is a suitably goofy looking picture of me aged 14 with an even goofier fringe with a big raspberry splatter up my GAP t-shirt. Aprons are advised.
After all those fond memories of ‘proper jam making’, it seems criminal to throw away the ratios, do away with properly sterilised jars and saucers stacked in the freezer for setting points. To not have jar upon jar stacked in the cupboards like preserved fruit jenga, just waiting to cascade on the floor as you search for the lasagne tin. And to not use those beautiful berry pans that bring back so many memories. But time and space are an issue in this baby sized kitchen I share and so one deeply delicious, seriously satisfying jar of fresh peach jam is just enough to curb the cravings of well set raspberry preserve.
The original recipe I adapted from called for a jam thermometer and a temperature of 190oc to 200oc before taking off the heat, but my digital one refused to go past 90oc. I admit I discarded the thing and played it by ear, added a touch of boiling water when it looked a little dry towards the end. But the end result is still a lusciously thick jam that will fill your kitchen with the summery fragrance of peaches and vanilla. Try smothering on toast, scones or dollop on rice pudding. With only a shelf life of around two weeks, it doesn’t last long but when jam tastes this good, I promise you will be eating it straight from the jar in no time.
You Will Need
600g ripe peaches (around 5-6 will do)
80g granulated sugar
2-3 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
½ tsp vanilla paste
Remove the stones from the peaches and cut into quarters. Place in a large heavy bottomed pan and add the sugar, 2 tbsp of the orange juice and the vanilla paste. Place over a low to medium heat and stir to combine the ingredients.
Once the juices begin to release, turn up the heat to medium and cook for around 15 minutes. Keep stirring to avoid the sugars catching. The jam should go a deep sunset colour and resemble a puree. If it looks a little dry, add a splash or two of water from a kettle to loosen a little.
Towards the end, taste for sweetness – add a little more sugar and the remaining orange juice if you like your jam a little sweeter. You can use a thermometer to check if the jam is ready, which is around 190oc to 200oc. However I took a teaspoonful out and left to rest for around 15 seconds. If it feels jammy to the touch and is holding its shape, it should be ready.
Remove the pan from the heat and spoon into a clean bowl to cool completely, stirring occasionally to release the steam. Prepare a jam jar by washing then covering in boiling water (this is the quickest way of sterilizing I find). Once the jam is cold, spoon into the clean dried jar and keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.