Several years ago, several months after I began this blog, I participated in Steph Chow's initial Jam Exchange. Steph organizes this each summer, pairing participating bloggers who produce and exchange two half pint jars of jam. Although Tjing and I don't really eat a lot of jam, I decided to participate as a way to motivate myself to try something I might otherwise choose not to do.
Making the jam itself didn't seem particularly daunting, but canning it successfully, without producing a toxic gift package, did give me qualms. Science wasn't exactly my forte in school, and canning seemed an arcane and possibly perilous undertaking. Anyone who has canned at home knows the relief I felt when the lids of those first jars pinged as the jars cooled.
Christine Ferber's Mes Confitures. Sacramento enjoyed a remarkably cool summer which seemed to extend the peach season. As I was still able to get some good white peaches in September, I chose to try Ferber's recipe for white peaches with saffron. This produces a very nice jam with a subtle flavor and hue from the saffron. It is quite splendid on a warm buttermilk biscuit.
3 pounds of firm, ripe white peaches
3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups granulated sugar
juice of 1 small lemon
a pinch of saffron (Ferber calls for 15 threads)
Blanch the the peaches in boiling water for a minute or two. Remove and immediately place the peaches in an ice bath. After peeling the peaches, cut them in half and remove their pits. Thinly slice the halves and put in a large pan with the sugar, lemon juice, and saffron. Bring this mixture to a simmer and then turn into a glass bowl. Allow to cool, then cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, pour this mixture through a sieve set over a large pan to drain the liquid from the fruit. Boil this syrup, skimming the froth, until it reaches 221º F on a candy thermometer. Add the peaches and return to a boil for about 5 minutes, skimming as needed. As soon as the mixture reaches 221º F, remove from heat and place into jars. Follow the directions for canning jams.
(Ferber suggests simply ladling the jam into sterilized jars, placing on the lids, and turning the jars upside down--forgoing the water bath method of canning. While this may be fine for the French ;-), it falls short of USDA guidelines. Fearful of shipping off a half-pint of botulism--and with my veins flowing red, white, and blue--I follow the American guidelines.)