Friday, August 14, 2009

Peach Vanilla Jam

Peach vanilla

It is finally August, which means two things: 1) Congress go away for five weeks and 2) I am finally allowed to go on vacation. Or in this year's case, staycation. My mom and I decided a great way to kick off my staycation would be to do an enormous canning project. On Saturday, we'd pick up a bushel of peaches and make jam and Sunday we'd do the same with tomatoes. We are nothing if not ambitious.

I realize now this was insane. We accidentally chose the hottest weekend in the year. Also canning requires a lot of standing. By the end I thought I might collapse. But I did end up with:
- 5 pints peach nectar
- 5 pints peach butter
- 5 pints peach jam
- 6 pints peach-ginger jam
- 4ish pints peach-vanilla jam
- 3 quarts peaches in rum

To avoid boring everyone, I'll post one recipe a week about Leah's adventures in canning. First up, peach vanilla jam.

A couple weeks ago, I was reading the Washington Post Food Section blog and saw this post on vanilla. I've always avoided cooking with vanilla beans, not so much because they are difficult but because of the expense. At my local grocery store, a bottle of one or two vanilla beans runs about $8. In the blog post, Monica Bhide mentions that vanilla beans are a lot cheaper if you buy them online. I looked at like she suggests and 1 lb of vanilla beans (that's 100-120) runs $20. I bought 1/2 lb of two types: Tahitian vanilla and Vanilla planifolia. (Vanilla Garlic has a good post on the different varieties of vanilla if you're interested.

Vanilla Beans

In this French-enclosure jar I bought specially of them, they'll keep forever. (Alright, maybe not forever but at least a couple years)

The Post had also done a big story complete with recipes on jam-making a few weeks back. Sadly it wasn't in time for my first jam session of the year, but I was intrigued by the recipe for Strawberry Vanilla. I googled, and came across this recipe. The jam is mostly peach with just a hint of vanilla. I think it's my favorite find so far. The recipe recommends starting 48 hours early and letting the vanilla beans sit in the sugar. You can obviously do that, but it didn't seem that necessary. I let my beans sit in the sugar for about 2 hours and the taste is plenty vanilla.

Note: For all the peach recipes, you will need to peel the peaches. To do this easily, boil water in a medium saucepan. Drop in a peach for about 30 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of ice water. The hot water loosens the skin from the fruit, the ice helps it separate even more and keeps you from burning your hands. The skins should easily slide off.

(For a refresher on canning jam, see previous post on Strawberry Jam or check out this site from the USDA.)

Recipe yields about 3 pints or 6 half-pints.

Eat Rating: Awesome. I had intended to give away some of my jam, but now I just want to keep it for myself.
Difficulty: Medium. Canning equipment needed.

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, August 1997

2 1/2 lbs peaches, skinned, pitted and sliced
5 1/2 cups sugar
2 vanilla beans
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 box pectin (1.75 oz -- about 3/8 cup)
1 tbsp bourbon

Measure sugar into a large bowl. Cut open the vanilla beans (for an example, see here) and let sit in the sugar for 48 hours. (LN: I let mine sit covered for 2 hours.)

When you are ready to begin cooking, take the largest pot you own, fill halfway with water and set on a back burner over medium heat. You will use this later. Place your jars on a cookie sheet and slide into a cold oven. Turn up the heat to 250 degrees. Once it reaches temperature, turn off the oven but leave the jars inside. Place the jar lids and rings in a bowl and set aside.

In a large saucepan, combine the sliced peaches, lemon juice and pectin. Heat, stirring constantly, until the peaches begin to boil, about 5 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla beans. Return to a rolling boil, then cook about 1 additional minute. Remove from heat, stir in bourbon. Fish out the vanilla beans. (You can save these to use again, but you might want to rinse to get the peach stickiness off).

Use a ladle to pour some of the hot water from the large pot into the bowl with the lids and rings. This will sterilize them.

Remove a few jars from the oven with a clean dish towel. Ladle the hot jam into the jars, wipe clean the lip of the jars and affix a lid. Twist on a ring till finger tight, then place the filled jar in the large pot of hot water.

Repeat until you run out of jam. You want the jars in the large pot to be completely submerged in water. Add more water if necessary. Return water to a boil, then boil the jars for five minutes. Remove jars from pot. The tops should pop as the jars return to room temperature. If any of the jars have not popped within 24 hours, reboil.

The jam will keep unopened for up to a year. Once opened, finish the jam within 2-3 weeks.

On toast

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