Well wasn’t I hopping mad yesterday morning.I had plans to make peach jam from frozen peaches that had been in the freezer since last September. I like to use pectin when making jams and jellies because it saves time and stove fuel. I also think pectin jams have a slightly better flavor. But my plans hit a snag.
I bought “Ball” brand pectin instead of “Sure-Jell” brand, and didn’t notice until yesterday morning, that I had bought instant pectin instead of regular pectin. Instant pectin is used for freezer jams and is not interchangeable with regular powdered pectin.
I began to do a slow burn.
***(Optional Side Rant)***( All the Ball pectin products look alike to me when they’re on the grocery store shelf. And if you ask me, Jarden/Ball Brands should work on their labeling so the difference between the two types of pectin is more readily apparent to the consumer. When I called to complain the customer service rep gave me some line about how we the consumers demanded “green” labeling for the Jarden/Ball Brand. Give me a break! Next time I’m buying Sure-Jell.)
Well I cooled off, but there was no way I was going to use up gasoline or time going to town for a couple of boxes of pectin. So I decided to make peach jam without pectin.
Making peach jam without pectin is easy.
It just takes a little bit more boiling. The jam will be darker and have a more old-fashioned cooked taste when compared to jam made with pectin.
The trick to making perfect jams without pectin is a candy thermometer and knowing what “sheeting” looks like on a metal spoon.
When making jam without pectin you first need to determine at what temperature water boils in your location on a given day. The boiling point of water changes by altitude and with atmospheric conditions.To test the temperature of boiling water and jam you’ll need a jelly or candy thermometer.
Once you know what temperature water boils at, all you have to do is add 9°F to that number for perfect jam every time.
Recipe for Peach Jam
- 4 ½ cups of peeled, pitted and crushed ripe peaches (I’m assuming you already know how to peel & pit peaches)
- ¼ cup of fresh lemon juice (that’s 1 medium size lemon)
- 7 cups of white sugar (do yourself a favor and buy pure cane sugar. Beet sugar is now a GMO)
Measure out crushed peaches and place in the bottom of a large kettle. Flat bottom kettles are perfect for this, but any good heavy 8 quart pan will do.
Add lemon juice and sugar to the peaches and stir well.
Place the kettle or pan on high heat and stir constantly until the mixture comes to a full rolling boil. A full rolling boil is a boil that cannot be stirred down.
Once the jam mixture has begun to boil, occasionally test the mixture for correct temperature and “sheeting”.
To take the temperature of cooking jam, place the candy or jelly thermometer in the center of boiling mixture. But take care that you don’t rest the thermometer on the bottom of the pan. You want the temperature of the jam not the pan. Remember you need a temperature that is 9°F above the boiling point of water.
Sheeting on a spoon is another method to double-check and test jam or jelly.
Sheeting is tested by dipping a cool, clean metal spoon into the mixture and quickly lifting it up and to the side.
You are looking to see 2 drops of jam that will run together to form 1 thick drop on the edge of the spoon. The jam mixture forms a jelly sheet on the spoon.
The characteristic layer of jam on a metal spoon is sheeting. It’s the method that our great-grandmothers used when they tested for the correct jelly or jam temperature.
Keep in mind that jams and jellies will thicken as long as they are heated. And it’s easy to over cook jam if you’re not careful.
If you are lucky enough (or foolish enough) to own a refrigerator (depends upon world view),
there is another and more modern method for testing jam when jam is ready . The test is performed by cooling a small amount of hot jam on a plate and placing the plate in the freezer compartment of a refrigerator.
While conducting the test, you’ll need to remove the kettle from the heat so that the jam doesn’t accidentally over cook.
The way that you do it is to place a small amount of hot jam on a clean plate and put the plate in the freezer for a few minutes. If the jam forms a gel it is probably done. But if the jam is still too runny it needs more time on the stove.
After the jam is cooked, and you are confident that it’s the right consistency remove it from the heat. Set it aside for about 5 minutes to allow any foam to collect on the top. Now carefully remove and skim as much foam as you can with a slotted metal spoon. It helps to rinse and clean the spoon between skimmings.
The foam does no harm to the jam. It’s simply removed because of appearance. The foam migrates to the top of a sealed jar of jam or jelly and has a “rubbery” look and feel to it. You won’t win any blue ribbons at the local county fair with foamy jam or jelly.
After the foam has been removed, pour the jam into hot ½ pint jars leaving about ¼ inch head space – maybe a little less. Wipe the rims clean and seal the jars with a modern two piece lid system.
Process the jars for 10 minutes in a gentle water bath. Processing time is counted from the time the water begins to boil.
When processing time is complete, remove the jars and place on a wooden board or a thick towel. Allow the jars to cool undisturbed for 8 – 12 hours. When completely cool, check the seals and remove the bands. Store the jam in a cool dark location.
- Make only enough jam for one year. Jams and jellies lose quality if stored for too long.
- Floating fruit is reduced considerably by stirring the jam mixture after the foam is removed and the jam has cooled down a bit.
- Canned or frozen fruit may be used when making jams and jellies. In fact a superior strawberry jam is made from frozen strawberries instead of fresh ones. And I think the best pineapple jam comes from crushed canned pineapple.
- Modern canning lid systems work better for jam than a layer of paraffin. Save the old timey paraffin seals for jelly and not for jam.