My blogger friend over at Calamity Shazaam in the Kitchen has a friend in Dorchester with a peach tree. A friend who was out of town when the peaches were at their peak, and who wouldn’t be back until after Hurricane Earl was projected to hit. What would happen to all those ripe peaches?
Well, Earl didn’t amount to much (up here anyway), but that shouldn’t detract from the heroic arrival of four concerned citizens right in the nick of time. And, by heroic, I mean purely self-serving. Or maybe I should speak for myself.
We arrived to a sizeable tree so laden with fruit that some of the branches required propping up. There was a hand-written sign on the tree instructing hungry passersby to twist—not pull—the fruit from the branches. Most of the peaches were out of arm’s reach, so we used a telescoping peach-picker: a long pole with metal fingers at the end attached to a small metal cage to catch the peaches when they drop. Like a super-long, potentially deadly lacrosse net. The twisting was tricky to accomplish with a clawed pole aimed ten feet over our heads, but at least one of us got the hang of it. Unfortunately, the twisty maneuvering would inevitably result in a major shakedown of the branches, sending nearby peaches plummeting to the ground and breaking open. I assigned myself the task of trying to catch those peaches before they hit the pavement. You can imagine the spectacle, I’m sure. I almost had to add myself to the number of casualties.
Still, we managed to pick quite a few usable peaches. Maybe 20 or 30 pounds? They looked pretty gnarly, but they tasted GREAT. Totally sweet and juicy, not mealy and flat-flavored like what you often find in the produce aisle of your well-intentioned supermarket. Most of the black dots were only surface blemishes and came off with the skin.
With my share of the loot, I made brandied peaches and peach jam. Sadly, some portion of the stone fruits met their untimely demise over Labor Day weekend when I returned home to find a long, grayish-black hairy mold overtaking them like a Chia Pet growing actual human hair. It was disgusting. But I still have the jam! And maybe next year we’ll have our own peach tree growing out of the compost bin!
Savin Hill Peach Jam
Adjust the recipe however you like: half the amount of sugar as peaches and some lemon juice for acidity. I also added a little pectin just to make sure it would gel.
4 lbs. peaches, skins on, pits removed, gnarly parts cut away
2 lbs. sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
1 Tbsp. pectin
Chop peaches coarsely and add to a large pot along with sugar. Let sit, covered, at room temperature for several hours or overnight in the fridge.
Dissolve pectin in lemon juice and add to peach mixture. Simmer over medium-low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon at the beginning and increasing the frequency as it thickens to prevent the bottom from scorching. Skim off any foam that rises to the top as it will cloud your jam. It’s quite delicious for snacking, though.
When the mixture starts to look thick and jammy, hold your wooden spoon above the pot parallel to the floor, edges of the spoon up and down. Tip the top of the spoon toward you slightly and watch the peach juice drip down into the pot. If the drips come down in single, watery drips, you need to cook it some more. If the drips start out singly, but then two drips join up to form one thick drip, this is sheeting. I’m learning that I like to take the pot off the heat when it just reaches this point, sometimes a tiny bit sooner for a slightly looser jam. (Alternatively, spoon a small amount onto a plate and put it in the freezer. If it gels and wrinkles when touched, it’s good.)
Ladle into clean jars. Cool, cover, label, and refrigerate for up to a month. Or, for longer lasting storage, can them using the boiling water method for 10 minutes. Makes 6 pint jars.
Source: Adapted from Tea and Cookies.