When using fruit to make jam, cooking down the fruit concentrates its true flavors, and the natural sweetness of whatever fruit you decide to use becomes even more evident. If you can find some delicious eating peaches, chances are they're going to make great jam.
Fresh peach jam is lovely in it's purest form, just peaches, sugar and lemon juice, but if you like the way fruit & alcohol tastes together, why not add a splash of bourbon? A vanilla bean adds richness and a bit more complexity to an already winning combination.
Again, you can certainly make this jam without bourbon. You can even make it without the vanilla bean. You'll still end up with a praise-worthy jam on your hands. Just be sure the peaches are sweet to begin with, and not too ripe. If there are any bruises on your peaches, be sure to cut them out before using them in the recipe. Using bruised and/or overripe fruit will result in an inferior product...don't do it!
Makes ~ 7 half pints
- 12 nice big peaches, ripe & slightly under-ripe (about 8 cups peeled & chopped)
- 2 fresh lemons, juiced
- 6 cups white sugar
- 1/2 cup good bourbon, divided in half
- 1 vanilla bean (optional)
Note: Prepare canning jars and keep hot until ready to use; prepare lids according to the manufacturer's instructions. (If macerating the fruit & sugar mixture overnight, you will want to wait until the next day to prepare the jars.)
1.) Blanch & peel peaches, then cut in half and remove the pit. Chop peaches into chunks. (Bigger if you like your jam chunky, smaller if you like it smoother.)
2.) Combine chopped peaches, lemon juice, sugar, 1/4 cup of the bourbon and a vanilla bean if using, in a large bowl. Stir well to combine and cover. Let it sit on the counter at least one hour, but preferably 8 hours, or even overnight in the refrigerator. The longer it sits, the more juices will be pulled from the fruit, forming a wonderful syrup in the bowl. Stir it once in awhile if you remember.
3.) After letting peach mixture "macerate", remove vanilla bean and set it aside for another use*. Stir peach mixture together well, scraping any sugar that might have collected on the bottom of the bowl.
4.) Place peach mixture in a heavy-bottomed non-reactive pan (don't use aluminum or cast iron). Bring to a boil over medium high heat and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the fruit from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Stir the fruit gently while cooking to reduce foaming.
5.) After about 10 minutes the fruit should be softening and you can periodically mash the chunks with a potato masher or an immersion blenderif you want smaller pieces or a smoother consistency.
6.) Cook the peach mixture anywhere from 5-15 more minutes, stirring, until the peach jam either thickens to your liking or until it reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer.
6.) Remove from heat and add the other 1/4 of bourbon. Stir well to incorporate.
7.) Ladle jam into clean hot jars, leaving 1/4" headspace.
8.) Using a chopstick or plastic knife, pop any air bubbles you might see in the jam.
9.) Wipe rims spotlessly clean and place a sealing lid on top the jar. Next, screw a band onto the jar until it's "finger-tight". Process jars in a Boiling Water Bath for 10 minutes (half pints) and 15 minutes (pints).
> If jars lid seals it will easily keep for one year in a cool, dark place. If jar doesn't seal, place it in your refrigerator and eat within 3 months, or within one month of opening.
*Rinse peach mixture off vanilla bean and let vanilla bean dry completely, then add it to your sugar jar. Over time your sugar will be infused with the vanilla bean ---> vanilla sugar!