Moving to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches… millions of peaches, peaches for free. Millions of peaches, peaches for me!
If I lived in the south, you can bet my house would have a peach tree. I’d be making peach pie, peach scones, peach cobbler, and yes, peach jam all summer long. And if we were friends, I’d invite you over for a peach party, and we’d sip peach cocktails and eat all things peaches. Life would be juuuuust peachy.
Sadly, I don’t live in the south, I live in Michigan, where peaches are scarce. At least, ripe peaches are. Instead, we have what I like to call “rocks”, which generally require at least a week of sitting around on the counter before being edible, and even then, there’s no guarantee how good they’ll be. I rarely think about moving away from here, but peach season is one that makes me dream.
Against my better judgement, I gave in and bought a bushel of these rocks a while back, and set them on the counter to ripen. A week later, to my happy surprise, they had transformed into some of the best peaches this side of Ohio — sweet, juicy, drip-down-your-chin delicious. Maybe my dreams of having a peach party aren’t that far off, after all?
It took every ounce of willpower I had not to eat every last one, but resist I did. Oh yes, I had plans for these.
If sweet and spicy are your kind of wonderful, let me introduce you to my new favorite indulgence: jalapeno peach jam. Perfectly sweet preserves, with just enough punch from the jalapenos to make things interesting. Let’s be honest here, we could all use a little more jalapeno in our lives.
You might be thinking that hot peppers in jam might make it’s uses limited, but that’s where you’d be wrong. That touch of heat makes this the perfect accompaniment to spice up a cheese plate (I’ve been spreading it on toast with brie or cream cheese, and on crackers with cheddar) or just about anything else, for that matter. I am a huge fan of foods that dance the line between sweet and savory, so I’ve also been brushing it liberally over grilled chicken and pork, schmearing it on sandwiches, and having it on toast with my eggs in the morning.
The more I eat it, the more things I think to try. Next on my list: shaking it up in a cocktail shaker with some bourbon and ice. Who wants to come over and taste test with me?
Rumor has it summer is coming to an end (it’s still hotter than bacon grease here, how should I know), so hurry up and grab yourself some peaches while you still can. I’m hoping to make one more batch of this jammy goodness before it’s too late, to last me through till next year. Or, at this rate, September or so… who knows.
What’s your favorite sweet and savory flavor combo? I’d love to hear in the comments below. Also, please RSVP if you’re coming to my peach party. I need to know how many cocktails to make.
- 3 lbs (about 7-8) very ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and roughly chopped (you should have about 8 cups of fruit)
- 3 TBSP fresh lemon juice
- 1 TBSP apple cider vinegar
- 5 cups sugar*
- ½ tsp. Lemon zest
- ½ tsp. Freshly grated ginger
- 3 TBSP (half a 1.75oz packet) powdered pectin
- 3 jalapeno peppers**
- Before you begin, place a small plate or saucer in the freezer so you can check the jam's consistency towards the end of cooking.
- (Optional), if you plan on canning your jam, bring a large stock pot of water to a boil and cook your (clean and empty) jars and lids to sterilize them. Using canning tongs, remove the jars to a clean dish towel to dry. Keep the stock pot of water at the ready for sealing the jars later.
- To peel the peaches, blanch quickly in boiling water (thirty seconds should do), then transfer to a bowl of cool water. This will help the skins slide off easily using just your hands. One peeled, remove the pits and roughly chop the peaches. Place in a large pot or enameled dutch oven (stay away from bare cast iron or aluminum, as the acidity of the jam can react with the metal).
- To the pot with the peaches, add the sugar, 2 TBSP lemon juice, cider vinegar, lemon zest, ginger, and pectin. Stir to combine, and let sit for 10-15 minutes to macerate.
- Meanwhile, prep your jalapenos. Remove the stems, and cut the peppers in half lengthwise. If you want a spicy jam, leave all of the seeds and veins in the peppers. For a milder jam, remove some or all of the seeds and veins by scooping them out with a spoon. (See recipe notes for more details.)
- Add the peppers to the bowl of your food processor, and pulse until very finely chopped, scraping down the sides if needed.
- Add the chopped peppers to the pot with the rest of the ingredients, and place over high heat. As the mixture heats up, gently break up the peaches with a potato masher or fork. (If you prefer a smoother jam, use an immersion blender to puree the mixture BEFORE turning on the heat.)
- Bring the mixture to a full boil, and let cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the bottom from scorching. As the mixture boils, skim off any foam that appears on the surface.
- To test the jam, spoon a small amount onto the saucer that's been chilling in the freezer. This will give you an idea of how thick the jam will be once it's cooled. If the jam sets up to your liking, it's done. If it's too loose, cook a few minutes longer and test again. (Once the jam has cooled on the plate, this is the perfect opportunity to give it a taste. Keep in mind that the jam will taste significantly spicier while it's fresh than it will the next day. If you're worried that it is still going to be too spicy, or if it isn't sweet enough, you can add an additional ½ cup of sugar and cook until completely dissolved.)
- Once the jam starts to set up to your liking, remove it from the heat and stir in the remaining TBSP of lemon juice.
- Carefully ladle the hot jam into your clean jars (a canning funnel is a big help, if you have one) leaving about ½ inch of head room in each jar. Once the jars are filled, wipe the rims with a damp towel to ensure a clean seal, and screw on the lids.
- (Optional) if you want to preserve your jam, return the sealed jars to the stock pot of boiling water, lowering them in carefully with canning tongs, and making sure the water is deep enough to cover the jars completely. Cover the pot with a lid and let the jars process in the water bath for 6-8 minutes. Remove the jars and set them carefully onto a clean kitchen towel. Let sit at room temperature, undisturbed, until completely cool. If you're using ball jars, the metal lids should make a “pop” or “ting” sound as they cool, and the bump in the center of the lids should no longer flex when pushed down on, letting you know the jars have properly sealed. If any jars don't seal completely, store these in the fridge and use within a couple months. Jars that are properly sealed can be kept in a cool dark place for up to a year.
**The heat of a hot pepper is contained (mostly) in the seeds and veins. To control how spicy your jam is, you can leave these in (hot!), or remove some or all of them (mild). I found I really liked the level of heat from de-seeding one of the peppers, while leaving the other two. If you aren't sure how much heat you want, I suggest de-seeding all but one of the peppers, and adjust from there with future batches to find what you like best. (And of course, if you just want some good ol' fashioned peach jam, you can leave the jalapenos out all together. Ain't nothing wrong with that!)
Keep in mind that the jam will mellow considerably over the first 24-48 hours after being made, so don't worry if it seems spicier than you want at first. When I first tasted my batch, it was waaaay spicier than I wanted. The next day? Perfection!