Nothing is more satisfying than homemade peach preserves made from fresh summer peaches. Give this easy, small batch recipe a try and enjoy preserves long after peach season is over.
I know summer has reached its peak when peaches start showing up at the farmer’s market. I can usually smell them before I see them. Their sweet smell wafts up from their wooden stand among the watermelons and fresh tomatoes. It’s everything I can do to refrain from picking one up and taking a big juicy bite right then and there. Will power.
Last time I was at the market, I selected a few ripe peaches for eating … and for making jam. After strawberry, peach preserves are my favorite. If you’ve mastered my strawberry jam recipes, peach preserves should be a piece of cake.
Preserves, Jam and Jelly: What’s the difference?
These terms are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference.
- Preserves – contain chunks of fruit.
- Jam – make from a fruit puree. Smoother than preserves but not as stiff as jelly.
- Jelly – make from fruit juice only.
What is pectin?
Pectin is a naturally occurring fiber found in fruits and vegetables. Some fruits contain more pectin than others. Peaches naturally don’t contain a lot of pectin, which is this recipe calls for the addition of a commercial version. The two most common brands of pectin are Sure-Jell and Ball. I have used both interchangeably with great results.
You may see some recipes out there labeled “without pectin.” Typically, these recipes have to increase the amount of sugar in order to get the jam to set or incorporate another fruit that contains a high amount of pectin, such as apples, into the jam.
Why Sugar is Important in Jam Making
Sugar plays a pretty huge role in jam making. It not only makes it taste good, but it works with the pectin to help the jam set. Sugar also helps the fruit retain its color and acts as a preservative by preventing the formation of mold or bacteria.
It is very important to use the exact amount of sugar called for in a recipe. Cutting the amount of sugar might result in jam that doesn’t set. Most experts recommend using white granulated sugar. However, you can substitute up to 1/4 cup of the amount of sugar called for with other sweeteners such as honey, stevia, brown sugar or molasses.
Other Ways to Cut down on Sugar
Low or no-sugar-needed pectin binds with calcium instead of sugar to help a jam set property. Whenever I use these products, I am able to cut the amount of sugar called for in a recipe by half. Ball and Sure-Jell both have low sugar pectin options.
There is also a product out there called Pomona’s Universal Pectin. It also uses calcium to form the gel, but you have to add some acid, such as lemon juice, for the same results.
Preparing the fruit
This peach preserves recipe starts with 4 cups of sliced peaches, which is about 4-6 whole peaches, depending on size. First thing you want to do is slice the peaches in half and remove the pit. If the peaches are ripe, the pit should come out easily with your finger. But sometimes they can be a bugger. If you’re having some trouble, simply cut off a few segments around the pit until you are able to pull it free.
Can I leave the skins on?
Peach skins, like tomato skins, get tough during cooking and don’t break down. I recommend peeling the peaches beforehand. Again, if the peaches are ripe, I can typically remove the skins with a small paring knife in a few minutes. However, if you have a lot of peaches to peel, you can use this method, similar to what I use to remove tomato skins.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Have a large pot of ice water standing by. Score the peaches by carving an “X” on the bottom. Drop the peaches, a few at a time, into the hot water. Simmer for a few minutes, or until you notice the skins starting to peel and pucker. Remove the peaches from the hot water and immediately plunge them into the ice water to halt the cooking. Once your peaches are cooled, the peels should simply slide off.
Can I Use Frozen Fruit?
Frozen peaches can be used in place of fresh when making peach preserves. Allow the peaches to thaw beforehand. Add in any juice that has accumulated during the thawing process.
How to make peach preserves
Once you have sliced the peaches and removed the skins, place them in a food processor and pulse them a few times. I like chunks of fruit in my preserves, but if you prefer a smoother texture, similar to peach jam, keep processing until the mixture is completely smooth.
Dump the peaches in a medium saucepan. Add ¼ cup of bottled lemon juice. Lemon juice not only helps the pectin in the jam to jell, but also adds enough acid to prevent the formation of bacteria. I recommend using bottled lemon juice rather than freshly squeezed because the acidity of lemon juice is consistent. When it comes to fresh lemons, some may contain less acid than others.
To the same pot, add 2/3 cup water and one box of regular pectin (if using low sugar, use three tablespoons). Bring mixture to a hard rolling boil. “Rolling boil” means that the preserves will continue to boil even when you give it a stir.
If using regular pectin, add eight cups of sugar. If using low/no sugar pectin, add four. Return the preserves 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 foam from the top. The foam isn’t bad for you – you can even eat it. But it can give your preserves a cloudy appearance.
The Spoon Test
The jam will thicken significantly as it cools, but here is a neat little trick if you want to test the thickness of your jam immediately. Place a metal spoon in the freezer before you get started. Dribble a little of the hot jam onto the ice-cold spoon. It should thicken up almost immediately, then you know if your jam has reached the right consistency.
What if My Jam Doesn’t Gel?
It could take up to 48 hours for homemade jam to completely gel. But if you’re still not satisfied with the consistency, there are a few things you can try.
First, measure out the jam, then pour it into a saucepan. If you have more than eight cups, you’ll need to divide the preserves in half and work in batches. Bring the jam to a boil, then for every four cups of jam stir in 1/4 cup of white sugar and one tablespoon powdered pectin. Bring the jam to a boil, then cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring constantly. Test for gelling using the frozen spoon method I describe above.
Can I Double This Recipe?
This recipe is considered small batch, which means it only produces a few jars. One recipe will typically yield:
- 6 (4 ounce each) quarter pints
- 3 (8 ounce each) jelly jars
- 1 pint (16 ounces) + one half pint (8 ounces)
This recipe can be doubled. However, I would not recommend trying to triple or quadruple the recipe. It can affect your cooking time and prevent the jam from setting properly.
How to Store Peach Preserves
Opened or unsealed peach preserves should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and consumed within one month.
Preserves can also be frozen for up to a year. Be sure to leave 1/2-inch of clearance (headspace) between the preserves and the top of the container to allow for expansion as it freezes. Preserves that have been frozen should be thawed in the refrigerator. Once thawed, it may be a little more on the runny side than preserves that have not been frozen.
If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know I prefer to can my jam. This can be done using the water bath canning method. If you’ve never canned jam before, check out my guide to water bath canning. It will tell you everything you need to know (it’s easy). Simply ladle hot jam into hot jars leaving ¼ inch headspace and process for 10 minutes.
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More peach recipes:
- 4 cups peeled and sliced peaches about 4-6 peaches
- ¼ cup bottled lemon juice
- ⅔ cup water
- 4 tablespoons low or no-sugar needed powdered pectin
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- Place peach slices 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).
- Combine mixture with lemon juice, water, and pectin in a large medium saucepan. Bring mixture to a hard rolling boil.
- Stir in sugar. Return to a boil and continue to boil for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until jam reaches desired consistency.
- Remove pan from heat. Skim foam if desired. Jam should continue to thicken for up to 48 hours.