Add a little sweet heat to your breakfast with a dollop of peach jalapeño jam on your morning toast or bagel.
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This time of year, the farmer’s market always has two tables set up lined with baskets of fresh peaches. The sweet smell hits you as soon as you get out of your car. I love that smell and it’s probably what drove me to buy more peaches than we could eat, knowing that several were going to be earmarked for jam.
I wanted a sweet jam with a surprise at the end. Spicy enough that you know there are peppers in there, but not so numbingly spicy that sweat begins to form on your brow and upper lip after the first bite. I love pairing peach jalapeño jam with cream cheese on a bagel or English muffin. But I also can’t wait to try this as a glaze on pork tenderloin.
Tools and ingredients you’ll need
To make this sweet and spicy jam, you’ll only need six ingredients, which includes:
- 4 cups peeled and sliced peaches
- 3 jalapeño peppers, seeds and ribs removed, more if more heat is desired
- ¼ cup bottled lemon juice
- ⅔ cup water
- 4 tablespoons powdered low or no-sugar needed pectin
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- Large stainless steel or non-stick stockpot – stay away from cast iron or aluminum. Cast iron can impart weird flavors into your jam. Also, the acid from the lemon juice can damage the finish on both cast iron and aluminum.
- 4 cleaned and sanitized pint mason jars, with lids and bands
What is pectin?
Pectin is a soluble fiber used as a thickening agent. It occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables, but some produce contains more pectin that others. Peaches do not naturally contain a lot of pectin, which is why many recipes will call for the addition of a commercial version – either liquid or powder. The two most common brands of powdered pectin are Sure-Jell and Ball. Both brands can be used interchangeably.
Selecting the best peaches
I’m not fortunate enough to live in the vicinity of a peach grove; therefore, my only option when it comes to peaches is to purchase them from the grocery store or farmer’s market. If you’re like me, you can still get your hands on some mouth-watering peaches if you know what to look for.
That wonderful aroma I described above is the first sign that a peach is at its peak. Next, look for larger peaches — these are usually the sweetest! The skins should be a lovely sunset color, a mix between rosy pink and bright orange. Examine the skins to ensure there is no bruising or damage. Finally, give it a gentle squeeze. Not too hard! You don’t want to damage the fruit. But if you feel just the slightest amount of give, that peach is ready to eat.
If all the peaches are rock hard, don’t fret. They will ripen in a day or two. There is a way to ripen them faster. Place the peaches in a paper sack and seal up the end. Peaches emit ethylene gas, which is a hormone that regulates growth and ripening. Sealing the peaches in a bag encourages them to emit even more of this gas. If you really want to speed things up, put a ripe banana in the bag with the peaches. The ethylene gas from the banana will help to speed things along.
A kitchen hack for peeling peaches quickly
I abhor the fuzzy texture of a peach skin. Regardless if I’m just going to enjoy a peach as an afternoon snack or I’m going to turn it into jam, I always remove the skins. But even if the texture doesn’t bother you, it’s still a good idea to peel the fruit first. Like tomato skins, peach skins are tough and don’t break down during the cooking process. You don’t want to be chewing on large pieces of peach peel while eating your morning toast.
To remove peach skins quickly and easily, bring a large stock pot of water to a boil. Have a second bowl full of ice water at the ready. Score the bottom of each peach with a shallow X. Carefully drop the peaches into the hot water. Let them simmer for just a few minutes until you start to notice the skins around the X starting to loosen and peel away. Remove the peaches from the hot water with a slotted spoon and quickly immerse them into the ice water to cool. Once the peaches are cool enough to handle, the skins should slide right off with ease.
Cut the peaches in half and remove and discard the pits. Then cut the peaches into slices. You will need four cups of sliced peaches for this recipe. Approximately eight whole medium peaches should net you the needed amount.
Remove the seeds from the jalapeños
We also need to remove the seeds and the rib from three jalapeño peppers. This is where a lot of the heat lies in the pepper. Plus, no one wants seeds in their jam. Even though we are only dealing with a small amount, I still recommend using gloves when working with hot peppers. The oil will get on your fingers and can linger, even after you think you’ve thoroughly washed your hands. You don’t want to touch your eye, nose or, God forbid, something else on your body – with jalapeño residue on your fingers.
I found that three jalapeño peppers was just enough to give your mouth a warm sensation, but not enough to knock your socks off. I will admit I am a wimp when it comes to spicy food. If you want a little more heat, feel free to add a few more jalapeños to the jam.
Make peach jalapeño jam
Place the peach slices and peppers in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the puree reaches your desired consistency (depends on if you like big chunks or little chunks of peaches in your jam).
Transfer the mixture to a large saucepan or stock pot. Add the bottled lemon juice, water and powdered pectin. Stir, then bring the mixture to a hard rolling boil over medium high heat. Hard rolling boil is a stage where the jam is boiling vigorously. You know you’ve reached that stage when you can stir the pan and the boiling does not stop.
Once the pan comes to a boil, stir in four cups of white granulated sugar. Return the jam to a boil and continue to boil for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until jam reaches desired consistency. Remove the pan from heat. Skim off any foam from the surface.
The spoon test
I can be difficult to gauge the consistency of your jam while it’s still hot. It will be a bit runny, but will continue to thicken as it cools. Instead of playing a waiting game, I stick a metal spoon in the freezer for abut 10-15 minutes. Take the spoon out of the freezer, drip a few drops of warm jam on the spoon. The chill from the spoon quickly cools the jam. If the jam on the spoon is thick enough to your liking, you’re good to go. If not, return the pan to the heat and boil for a few more minutes. Repeat until your jam reaches your desired consistency.
Storage and freezing
This recipe should net you approximately:
- Four pints -or-
- Eight half pints -or-
- about 5 (6 ounce) jelly jars
While the peach jalapeño jam is still hot, ladle it into clean jars. Top with a lid allow the jam to cool before placing it in the refrigerator. The jam should be consumed within three months.
This jam can also be frozen. I recommend storing the jam in freezer safe plastic containers rather than glass, since freezing can cause the glass to shatter. Be sure to leave about a 1/2 inch gap between the jam and the lid to allow for expansion during freezing. Jam can be frozen for up to one year. Allow it to thaw completely before use, then give it a stir before using. The jam may be slight more watery after freezing.
Peach jalapeño jam can be preserved for long-term storage using the water bath canning method. Transfer the jam to glass mason jars, leaving ¼-inch of headspace. Headspace is the distance between the surface of the jam and the rim of the jar.
Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp rag. Center a lid on each jar. Carefully screw on a band until the fit is fingertip tight. Process the jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and allow the jars to rest in the canner for five minutes. Afterwards, carefully remove the jars from the canner and allow them to cool.
Once the jars cool, the vacuum seal will form and you will hear the lids “ping” once the seal is complete. Check the lids after 24 hours to make sure the lids do not flex up and down when the center is pressed. Remove the rings and store the jars in a cool dry place. Store any jars that do not seal in the refrigerator. Jam that has been canned using the water bath canning method will last one year. Check out my tutorial on water bath canning if you would like to know more.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use frozen or canned peaches?
You can use frozen peaches, just make sure you let them thaw first. Canned peaches will also work, but look for peaches canned in water instead of syrup so you’re not adding a lot of additional sugar. Canned peaches will also need to be drained. You could use the water from the can to replace some or all of the water called for in the recipe.
Can I use fresh lemon juice instead of bottled?
I get asked this all the time. First, you need to add some acid to the jam to prevent the formation of botulism, which is the bacteria that causes food poisoning. Second, it needs to be lemon juice from a bottle. The acidity from fresh lemons juice varies from fruit to fruit. Bottled lemon juice is the only way to ensure your are getting a consistent level of acid.
Can I use liquid pectin instead of powdered pectin?
Yes, but with some adjustments. Powdered pectin is added before cooking. Liquid pectin is added after. The measurements also differ: 1 tablespoon of liquid pectin = 2 teaspoons of powdered pectin. So for this recipe, use 6 tablespoons of liquid pectin to replace the four tablespoons of powdered.
Can I use regular pectin?
You can but you will need to double the amount of sugar used from four cups to eight cups.
Can I leave out the pectin?
As mentioned above, the pectin is used as a thickener. Leaving it out entirely will change the consistency. You may be able to achieve a similar consistency by adding more sugar.
Can I use brown sugar instead of white sugar?
Yes, you can replace all of the white sugar with brown sugar. But keep in mind that the texture and taste may differ.
Can I used honey instead of sugar?
If using pectin, all of the sugar can be replaced with honey.
Can I use artificial sweetener instead of sugar?
Yes, if using pectin, you can replace the sugar with artificial sweetener. Since artificial sweetener is much sweeter than regular sugar, you will need to use less. Substitute two tablespoons of sweetener for every one cup of sugar.
Can I add a different type of pepper?
I’ve only made this recipe using jalapeños. However, I think you could substitute them for a different type of pepper and achieve similar results.
What if my jam didn’t set?
First, give the jam at least 48 hours. After that, it should be set. If not, return the jam to a clean saucepan and stir in a little more pectin, no more than a tablespoon at a time. Bring the jam back to a boil. Allow the jam to boil for 2-3 minutes, then repeat the spoon test.
If the jam still hasn’t set after another 24 hours, check to make sure your pectin was not expired. It begins to lose its ability to gel the longer it sits on a shelf. Also, this recipe was tested using powdered pectin, not liquid. It does make a difference and can affect the consistency.
Second, did you use the amount of sugar called for in the recipe? I know four cups sounds like a lot, but the sugar does more than just sweeten the jam. It also contributes to the gelling process. If you cut back on the sugar, it will definitely impact the consistency
Can this recipe be doubled?
Yes, it can be doubled. I do not recommend trying to increase the yield beyond that since it could affect your cooking time and the consistency of the jam.
If my jars didn’t seal during canning, can I recan them?
Yes. Discard the old lids. Make sure the rims of the jars are clean and replace with a new lid, then seal with a ring. Reprocess the jars using the instructions above.
Peach Jalapeño Jam
- 4 cups peeled sliced peaches
- 3 jalapeño peppers seeds and ribs, more if more heat is desired
- ¼ cup bottled lemon juice
- ⅔ cup water
- 4 tablespoons powdered low or no-sugar needed pectin
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- 4 cleaned and sanitized pint mason jars or 7-8 half pint jars, with lids and bands
- Place peach slices and peppers in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until peaches reach your desired consistency (depends on if you like big chunks or little chunks of peaches in your jam). Transfer the puree to a large saucepan.
- Combine the puree with lemon juice, water, and pectin. Bring the mixture to a hard rolling boil over medium to medium-high heat.
- Stir in the sugar. Return to a boil and continue to boil for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until the jam reaches your desired consistency.
- Remove the pan from heat. Skim off any foam from the surface if desired.
- Ladle hot jam into warm jars leaving ¼ inch of headspace.
- Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean, damp rag. Center the lid on the jar. Carefully screw on the band until it is fingertip tight.