Thursday, September 23, 2010

Storing Summer

I love this time of year. Have I mentioned that, yet?

My mother grew up in a small-ish town called Brigham City in northern Utah, where they grow delicious peaches. In the early part of September every year, they have a festival they call "Peach Days". I remember going as a child -- there were rides and games and, I think, a parade. But mostly I remember the peaches we would eat from my grandparents' back yard.

They tasted like summer. Like every spark of sunshine over the summer months was collected and stored for later, giving the fruit it's sunrise-colored skin, plump and soft and warm from the treetops.

The first time I ever had freezer jam, I was at my cousin, Jenny's, house. Tired from playing house or spinning around in circles or generally causing trouble, we had begged for a snack. My aunt produced a small square tupperware from the depths of the freezer, and not too much later we each had a jam sandwich with the most heavenly concoction I could ever remember tasting -- Strawberry. Freezer. Jam.

Until last year, I was simply too intimidated by the thought of making jam. It seemed like such an undertaking, requiring copious amounts of fruit and special equipment and time to kill. Then I remembered freezer jam.

If you're interested in preserving some of summer's goodness this fall, don't be too scared to try your hand at freezer jam. It is so easy and quick; no special equipment needed. And it doesn't really require that much fruit.

This is a recipe I got from Kraft's Sure-Jell site -- it's pretty standard for freezer jam, but it is just so good. I love the sunrise color and the interplay of mellow peaches with zippy, tangy raspberries. If you have a couple of hours, head to the store or your local farmers market, maybe grab a friend, and make this jam.

Raspberry Peach Freezer Jam

3 1/2 c. prepared fruit -- about 1 1/2 pints of raspberries and 1 1/4 lb. peaches
7 c. sugar
3/4 c. water
1 box Sure-Jell fruit pectin

mesh seive
quart-size liquid measure
large mixing bowl
tupperware vessels with a combined volume of at least seven cups
maybe a paring knife and spatula/wooden spoon
perhaps a blender, if so desired

(I find it best when preparing my fruit to just use my hands for the most part, but you can use a fork or a wooden spoon or even your blender. I won't judge.)

Wash raspberries and place in a mesh seive over a quart-size measuring cup. Crush the berries (with a fork or hands or whatever) and work the fruit through the sieve until all that remains are seeds. Discard these seeds.*

Wash, peel and pit peaches. I usually crush them with my hands right there in the measuring cup when they're still halves, but you can chop them or puree in a blender if that makes you happy; Leave as little or as much fruit chunkage as you like. Check to be sure that you have 3 1/2 c. fruit when all is said and done. If not, keep adding peaches until you do.

Stir together with sugar in a large bowl (one that will hold at least 7 cups) and let sit for 10 minutes to dissolve, stirring occasionally.

While you're waiting, combine water and pectin in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Once a boil has been reached, stir and boil for one full minute. Add immediately to the fruit mixture.

Stir for three minutes or until sugar is dissolved and no longer grainy.

Immediately distribute among tupperware vessels, leaving about 1/2 inch at the top if you intend to freeze them (room to expand and all that jazz). Fit vessels with lids and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours before storing in the fridge or freezer. Will keep for about 3 weeks in the fridge or 6 months in the freezer.

* Note: I do not like seeds in my jam. If you do, feel free to crush the berries without using the seive or only remove the seeds from half of the fruit. Whatever floats your boat, my friend.

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