Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Spiced Brandy Peach Jam

Tillamook Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with Peach Jam and Blueberries
As summer draws to a close, most of my jam has been made. So far this year I have made strawberry, marionberry, raspberry, and blueberry jams. My job is not yet done, however, for it is now peach season and peach jam is one of our absolute favorites!
Unlike the berry jams, which are all about the flavor of the particular berry being used, my peach jam recipe adds in layers of flavor that work to bring out and highlight the peach flavor. Brandy is exceptional for this purpose, as are spices like cinnamon and allspice. It is important not to overspice the jam as you do not want to cover the taste of the peaches. I also will often use a little bit less pectin than normal so that the jam does not firm up too much. I've found this jam to also make a wonderful sauce for pork or chicken, or to be served over ice cream. Leaving it just a little on the runny side, thick but not too thick, gives the jam an ideal consistency. 
As with most of my jam recipes, there is no predetermined amount of fruit being used. For this batch I had about a half case of peaches, which I allowed to fully ripen. This is important! As the fruit ripens, it develops it's own sugars and becomes sweeter. Allow them to ripen as much as you can, even if you have to cut away parts of a few peaches or even toss a couple out. The sweetness is worth it and allows you to make the jam without adding too much extra sugar.

I begin by taking my largest stock pot and combining in it:
approz. 20-24 ripe peaches (15 c or so), peeled, pitted and chopped
3 c granulated sugar
2 c brown sugar
1 c brandy
1 T cinnamon
2 t ground allspice
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t ground clove
2 whole vanilla beans, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out
When halving the vanilla beans, scrape the seeds or they won't all come out. Then add the seeds and the pods to the jam. Bring the combined ingredients to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring regularly. Allow the jam to cook for 10-15 minutes to burn off some of the alcohol and give the flavors time to combine. If you feel at this point that the jam is too chunky, you may use a potato masher to mash some of the peach chunks into a smaller size. For this job, I usually use my immersion blender and pulse the jam so as not to overdo it. I like the finished jam to have some chunks left in it. NOTE: If you use an immersion blender, remove the vanilla bean pods first! Believe me, the last thing you want is to have to fish  chunks of tough pod out of your jam! This is generally a good time to remove the vanilla pods anyway, even if you are using a potato masher. Allow the pods to cool a bit and give them one last scraping to remove any leftover seeds and add them to the jam. Discard the pods.
Increase the heat on the stove to high and add in:
4-5 T low or no sugar pectin
Use your own judgement on the best amount to use, based on the amount of fruit used and desired thickness. On this particular batch, I used 4 T and it worked just fine. Stir the jam constantly at a rolling boil for 1-2 minutes, then remove the jam from the heat. Ladle the jam into your jars and process them for 10-15 minutes each. Allow them to cool and you're done! With this batch, I ended up with about 10-1/2 pints of jam. You can also jar them in smaller half pint jars and give them as gifts for the holidays. The spicy flavor of this condiment goes well with any number of holiday dishes and homemade jam makes a wonderful gift!


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