Sunday, July 11, 2010

Just Peachy

It's not the canning my grandmother used to do, but the small scale version of making homemade jam with local fruits is still a nice memory and project to share with my own daughter. The finished product is a nice to share with friends, family, or co-workers too.

I started at the local orchard in Belleville Illinois, Eckert's, and cashed in a coupon for the grand opening of their new country store. They just started peach season and will be offering U-Pick soon too. In the country store they sell peaches (and hundreds of other local items including baked goods) and discount the ones that are fully ripe or slightly bruised for immediate use. I picked a peck of fancy peaches for $12.99, enough for 4 batches of peach jam as long as you're a frugal peeler. In our house, we ended up with 3 batches and some smoothie and ice-cream additions too.

Several recipes on the Internet just call for peaches and sugar (lots of it), but I've always used pectin. I tried liquid for this batch. You'll need 4 packages if you buy a full peck too, as well as 2 full bags of sugar and 8 cups worth of storage vessels for each batch (32 total) . I just use 1c sized plastic bowls to give (and eat) right away. You can use jars, bowls, or any clean vessels you like. Oh, a fresh lemon, or 1/4c of lemon juice is called for too, but I cheated and used frozen lemonade concentrate.

The least fun part comes next... cleaning your peaches. I wish I had tricks to make this easier. For one batch, peel and slice your peaches into small bits. Don't puree your fruit, but don't worry about everything being perfect either. I use a peeler for the skin and be gentle. Watch the flesh as you're peeling. Don't mistake a soft spot for a bad spot. If the color is good but the flesh slightly translucent, let it be. If it's significantly darker, trim it off. You'll need 4 cups of fruit per batch of jam.

The recipe on the pectin box calls for 1/4 cup of lemon juice at this point. I used frozen lemonade mix and added approximately 1/4c of that to the peaches while I sliced them to prevent browning. It increases the tang and sugar too. Add the 4 cups of sliced peaches to a large soup or stock pot along with 7.5 cups of sugar (and the lemon juice if you didn't already add it). Stir well, I promise there will be enough liquid to saturate all that sugar. Bring the mixture up to a boil, stirring to prevent your jam from burning.

When your mixture starts to boil, stir constantly. When the mix maintains a rolling boil even while being stirred it's time to add the pectin. When everything has come to a full boil again, start a timer for 1 minute and keep stirring. At the beep, remove your pot from the heat. There will be some foaming (supposedly a tsp of butter while boiling will minimize this) and you can skim the bulk of it off before putting into your containers.

When I use the disposable plastic bowls (8 1c bowls per batch) I put the lids on while the jam is still hot. Press the lid down in the center while putting on the lids to remove as much air as possible. As it cools, the lids will seal very tightly. Once cooled to room temperature you can refrigerate or freeze. Use within a month.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

New Tent

I stopped by Wolfe Camera across from the Galleria Mall yesterday to see what, if any, bargains they had left for the 60-80% off closing sale. In fact, they did. I picked up a desktop light tent kit with two desktop lamps and a background fabric kit. I also picked up a book on my new camera, a filter folder, a 2gb microdrive, and an extra battery charger. Here's a test shot from the first time playing with the tent.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Clark Bridge - Alton IL

I would love to get a view of this bridge off top on of the local buildings (or atop the bridge would be even more fun).

Happy Mother's Day

Emma wanted me to have flowers for Mother's Day.