jam making: peaches and apricots (real food)

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summary: lesson in jam making; procedure for processing jam with apricots and peaches; liquid pectin; sugar preferences; information about “Two For Tuesdays!” and Lynn’s High5; (click on images to see larger views and more photos)

We’re taking the “Two For Tuesdays” theme rather literally today and posting twice for the event… one post from each of us…. :-)

peach and apricot jams One of our fruit and vegetables stores is selling baskets of the most fabulous peaches. They’re exactly right for eating NOW. You know the kind. When you bite into it, you can’t stop the juice from running down your chin and arms.

I was raving about the peaches to my sister and she casually mentioned that she had made peach jam last year.

me: [awestruck] You know how to can??

she: [casually] I took a course.

me: I’ve always been terrified of canning. [whistfully] I wish I knew how….

she: [casually] Do you want to make jam this weekend?

me: [jumping up and down and squealing] Are you kidding?? Yes!! How many peaches should I get? do you want to make apricot jam too? we love apricot jam! there are apricots now too. we have some jars already. how many jars do we need? what do [more non-stop incomprehensible ectatic babbling]

So we jumped on our bikes and peddled furiously through muggy thick air the short distance to the “expensive” vegetable store that always has really good fruit in the summer. (We got spectacular sour red cherries from them a couple of weeks ago.) I got a basket of incredibly fragrant peaches (no idea what kind but they had reddish skins and were so ripe they were almost bursting) and some apricots. The tiniest apricots I’ve ever seen but they smelled the most like apricots of all the apricots at the various nearby produce sellers. Then I got some jam jars and a packet of liquid pectin because it was the only pectin that wasn’t laced with fructose and dextrose.

The next day (also steamy but not quite so bad – it rained that night), my sister arrived, armed with more jars, her canning utensils and her canning text book. My sister read the instructions out loud and made me mime some of the procedures before we dug into the basket of peaches to get started.

jars We pulled out a peach from the basket and then remembered we were supposed to be sterilizing the jars. (Hard not to eat the peach that we each had in our hands, but we were good….) We put the jars in the big stock pot and as we filled them, we realized that it really wasn’t deep enough to do the processing. (Oh Yeah!!! We already ran into this problem before, when T made peach chutney !!) An emergency phone call next door to talk to an answering machine machine and then racing to the other side to knock franctically on the door produced a humungously large pot. (And about 5 minutes later, the other side offered us their giant size stock pot.) Excellent!!!

Now that we had the correct sized processing pot, we continued, back on track.

You don’t want to know how much sugar we added. I don’t want to know how much sugar we added! We followed the recipe in the canning book!! The canning book has excellent instructions but the recipes appear to call for WAY too much sugar.

So there I was stirring, stirring, stirring and watching as the molten sugary peaches were getting closer and closer to the top of our small stock pot we were using to cook the jam. (Why on earth were we using that pot??!) But quick-thinking that we are, my sister took over the stirring, while I rummaged through the pot drawer to haul out the large stock pot that we WERE going to use for processing. My sister removed the pot of molten peaches (that were not quite bubbling over) from the burner and I put the larger pot on the burner. Then she handed me the other pot and made me pour the hot peach mess into the new pot. :stomp: I’m pleased to report that I didn’t spill any. And we were back on track.

Everything else about the procedure was brilliant though. Even though it took us three and a half hours to produce 8 little jars of peach jam.

jars Because we then knew more about what we were doing, it only took us an hour and a half to produce 6 little jars of apricot jam. And after licking our fingers on what was left in the pot after filling the jars, we were determined to use LESS sugar for the apricot jam. And we did. In spite of the apricots be far tarter than the peaches. I was holding the sugarbag and tried to sneak by with scantly filled cup measures. But my eagle-eyed sister noticed and made me add a little more.

And still the apricot jam is very very sweet. :stomp:

jars T and I officially tasted the peach jam the next morning (from the jar that was 7/8 full and so HAD to be eaten) on Tortano toast. Oh my!!! It’s insanely sweet!!! We tried cutting the sweetness by having it with goat’s cheese but the sweetness was too overpowering still. But the peach flavour still manages to come through. And it’s a beautiful colour. T thinks we should use it as a topping for cheese cake. It really does seem more like a dessert item.

Fascinating that the liquid pectin with zero sugar made for such sweet jam (although, of course, it has a lot to do with just how much sugar we added). I don’t know why but it never occurred to me that pectin would taste sweet!

Certo liquid pectin is produced in Mexico from lime peels. […] Pectin is an effective fruit-based glue. It is sweet but otherwise without prominent flavor. -ehow.com: about certo liquid pectin (ehow.com/about_6540769_certo-liquid-pectin_.html)

I gather that if you don’t care about whether the jam is loose, then you can use less sugar but if you care, it pretty much has to be 50% sugar, 50% fruit.

We rode to Canadian Tire on Sunday to get the canning implements. Alas, I didn’t see “light fruit pectin crystals” there. Even though I’m a fan of using things with zero sugar, I have a horror now of liquid pectin.

I looked at a Canadian Living Peach Jam recipe and see they call for “light fruit pectin crystals”. I wonder if there is less sweetener in that. I don’t remember seeing that choice when I was looking at all the pectins.

But yes. Definitely more research is required! Because, now that the procedure isn’t terrifying, I will be doing more jam making! I’m considering experimenting with zero pectin and adding apple or cranberry instead.

And I also really want to make some chutneys! This is so coool. Thank you thank you thank you to my sister for the demystification!

Even though the internet is absolutely full of excellent instructions on how to put up jam, here is what we did (I found it quite informative to type out the instructions – it helps me to remember just what we did):

Procedure for Making Jam
based on the instructions in “Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving”, edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine

clean jars and enclosures . heat jars . prepare enclosures . make recipe . fill jars . heat process . cool jars . check seals and label the jars


  • large pot, deep enough to hold jars upright and be covered by at least 1 inch (2.5cm) of water.
  • large stock pot
  • tea towels galore
  • wooden board
  • funnel
  • jars and lids
  • magnet
  • tongs
  • guide
  • thermometer, optional


  1. Clean jars and enclosures: Examine the jars for nicks, cracks and uneven rim surfaces. Wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water. Rinse well and leave to drain. Drying the jars is unnecessary.
  2. Heat jars: Put a rack in the bottom of large processing pot. Place the jars on the rack, keeping them from touching. Add water to the jars until it reaches the top. For jars larger than 500ml, fill to 2/3 full. Cover the pot and bring to a simmer (180F) over medium heat. There is no need to boil the jars. The heat processing will do the sterilization. Keep the jars hot until ready to use.
  3. prepare enclosures: Set the screw bands aside. Carefully place the flat lids, seal side down in a small pot. Make sure that they are fanned out. Bring to a simmer (180F) over low heat. Do NOT boil! This could damage the seal. Keep hot until ready to use.
  4. make recipe: Cook whatever is to be preserved, following the recipe’s instructions. (If the cooking time is longer than 30 minutes, wait until it is being made before heating the jars and lids.) Lay a clean teatowel onto a large cutting board in preparation for filling the jars.
  5. fill jars: Use the tongs to lift a jar from the hot water. Empty the water into the pot and bring the jar onto the teatowel covered board. Use tongs to lift out a second jar in the same fashion. Put the funnel into the mouth of one of the jars. Ladle the food in, leaving the correct amount of headspace. Put the funnel into the mouth of the second jar. Use the guide to check the headspace on the filled jar.
    • For pickles and relishes: 1/2 inch (2 cm)
    • For jams and jellies: 1/4 inch (1 cm).

    Slide a non-metal stick down between the food and the sides of the jar 2 or 3 times to remove any air bubbles. Adjust the head space if necessary. Clean the rim and threads with a clean damp cloth. Using the magnet, lift a disc lid from the hot water bath. Center it over the jar. Put the screw band on, tightening to fingertip tight; no more!! Overtightening can lead to seal failure. Use the tongs to put the jar back into the hot water. Retrieve an empty jar from the water, empty and proceed as above until all the jars are filled.

  6. heat process: Add enough water to the processing pot to cover the the jars by at least 1 inch (2.5cm). Cover the pot with a lid. Bring to a full rolling boil. Not until the water is boiling should the timer be set. Process for the amount of time indicated in the recipe. (The general rule of thumb is 10 minutes for jam and 5 minutes for jelly.)
  7. cool jars: Once the processing time has elapsed, turn the heat off. Remove lid and let sit for 5 minutes to allow the contents to stabilize. Remove each jar, lifting with the tongs WITHOUT TILTING. It’s okay if there is water on top of the lids. It will evaporate. Place the jars on a towel covered rack, keeping them upright. Leave to air dry, undisturbed for 24 hours; the seal is being formed. Put the jars in a draft free area. Drape a second tea towel overtop to help keep out drafts.
  8. check seals and label the jars: After 24 hours has passed, unscrew a lid. The disc lid should be concave (it’s likely that you’ll have heard the disc lids pop down the day before). Press the center of the lid with your finger. There should be no movement. If you’re unsure, place one hand under the jar and use the other to lift the jar by holding the disc. The seal should hold, no matter how heavy the jar’s contents. If the seal is broken, put the jar in the fridge and eat the contents in a timely fashion. Reattach the screwtop lid lightly. There is no need to tighten it; it’s just there for when the jar is opened; the jar is sealed already with the disc lid. Label each jar, recording contents and date.

Store jars in a cool dark place. Eat the contents within a year.


» Read through all steps of the procedure and recipe before plunging ahead.

» It’s a very good idea to check all utensils, ensure that your pot is deep enough and to wash jars and lids before beginning.

» Bonafied preserving jars can be used and reused as long as they are undamaged. The screwbands can also be reused. However, under no circumstances, should the disc lids be reused. The seal will not be secure.

You don’t want to know what quantities we used. The sugar amounts were wrong wrong wrong. When I make jam that is more in keeping for breakfast than dessert, I’ll be sure to post the quantities we use. Because I will be making more jam! Probably this week. :whoohoo:

Sicilia Lemon Juice But. One thing that I found fascinating. My sister was absolutely adamant that we use lemon concentrate that comes in those containers that look like plastic lemons rather than actual lemon juice. Apparently, the acid level varies drastically in actual lemons, making it difficult to know just how much lemon juice to add for safety. (I gather it’s the acid that is the main preservative.)

We didn’t use “real lemon” though. We think it’s vile. Instead, we used Sicilia lemon juice that actually tastes and smells like lemons.

Two for Tuesdays - Eat Real Food

Two for Tuesdays!
Eat Real Food

This event was created by Alex (A Moderate Life) with the idea that each “Two for Tuesday” post would contain two things (two recipes, two links, two variations on a theme… as long as the post is about real food. Alex, Heather (girlichef) and an increasing number of bloggers have joined forces to co-host the weekly event. Heather wrote:

» REAL food is homemade. REAL food is from scratch. REAL food has recognizable ingredients. REAL food is made from traditional ingredients. REAL food is food you make with your own hands. -Heather (girlichef), “Extra! Extra! Read all About It! Announcing… TWO for TUESDAYS!”

For links to the other “Two for Tuesdays” hosts and complete details on how to participate in the weekly event, please read the following:

  • Heather (girlichef): Two for Tuesdays Blog Hop Carnival Volume 7
  • Alex (A Moderate Life): Two For Tuesdays Blog Hop!


Lynn’s High Five

High5: I did it! High 5! I did it!! Learning how to can has always been on my list of things to do. A few years ago, T made peach chutney without having all the correct equipment. But I was absolutely terrified of it and desperately needed someone to hold my hand on my first attempt. It turns out that it’s EASY and no hand holding is required!! (It is really fun to have a second person in the kitchen though, not to mention that with actual canning utensils, the process was considerably easier and far less intimidating.)

Ha!! And now I am an expert at canning. (Please reassure me that I don’t have to say that I’m joking.)

You select the challenge – you know best what intimidates you, what you’ve been putting off trying. When you put up your post, just slap up this logo to let the world know you’ve taken on something new and given it a good kicking! – Lynn (Cookie baker Lynn), I Did It (and you can, too)


Heh. I was just looking again at Alanna’s (A Veggie Venture) Practical Home Canning Tips and am reminded of one last thing: we didn’t have a metal insert to keeps the jars upright during processing. We discussed it at length, trying various cooling racks and vegetable steamers that didn’t work at all. So I stuck a tea towel down into the bottom of the pot. And that seemed to do the trick. Today, when I was at the hardware store to see if they sold these inserts, the fellow said that his mother always arranged lids on the bottom of the pot and rested the jars on the lids. That might work!! What do you think?

most recent Two for Tuesday (Real Food) post: grilled oyster mushrooms and thyme (real food)


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16 responses to “jam making: peaches and apricots (real food)

  1. girlichef

    First of all…I’m glad you linked two times today…that’s what it’s for, if you can!! Second…yum! Even though your first attempt was too sweet, at least you got the virgin process out of the way and you’ll be all set for next time!! The chutney sounds like it would be pretty fabulous! …and yeah, I loooooove it when the peaches are just right, dripping and dribbling away! ;)

    That’s what I was thinking, gc. Now that the terror is gone (and we have the correct size of pot) things will go much more smoothly now. And yes, the chutney WAS very good. We must make that again! -ejm

  2. Butterpoweredbike

    Waaaa! There are so many things about this post that appeal to me, that I hardly know where to start. First of all, you rode your bike to get the fruit! Love love love it! Secondly, I will be making my own peach jam (or something canned) here shortly, as I’ve got a peach tree in the backyard. Can you get your hands on Pomona’s Universal Pectin? I just discovered it a few years ago, and you can set the pectin with zero sugar, which is always exciting because you can sugar the fruit to taste instead of drowning it with sweetness. I also use crab apples and sour green apples in a lot of my jams because they contain a ton of pectin naturally.

    Wonderful post! Thanks for sharing at Two for Tuesday this week.

    I read about Pomona’s pectin, BPB, and am trying to find it. -ejm
    (We almost always ride our bikes to go grocery shopping. It’s WAY easier. The only times we don’t ride is when the roads are covered in ice. And then we walk.)

  3. David

    Your jam making method is very different from mine. I put the jars and lids into my oven on a metal tray to sterilise them, boil the fruit and sugar in a large pan until a spoonful dropped onto a cold saucer wrinkles when a fingertip is drawn across the surface, then pour the jam into the hot jars and put the lids on. Task complete.

    I read about that method, David, and plan to try that when I make apricot jam WITHOUT adding pectin. (Brrrrr, I loathe liquid pectin now.) My sister’s jam book claimed that this more traditional way you describe is much more difficult and time consuming. But it sounds a whole lot easier to me…. -Elizabeth

  4. Jeanne @ CookSister!

    I’m with David on this one – that’s how I make jam too ;-) Surprisingly easy peasy, really, and made great mirabelle and ginger jam last year! Love the idea of peach jam…

    How much sugar to fruit do you use, Jeanne? And do you add apple or lemon to create the natural pectin? -Elizabeth (mmmmmm, mirabelle jam!! …I’ve seen plums at the market. I think we neeeeeed to have plum jam too)

  5. your jam-making sister

    Putting some screw bands upside down in the pot and putting the jars inside sounds like a brilliant idea.

    My jam instructor said that sterilizing the jars in the oven could damage the jars.

    Seems to me that sterilizing the jars in the same pot as will be used for the processing makes it very easy. Take a jar out, fill it, put it back.

  6. David

    Oh no! All these years people have been making jam without post-processing. How silly of them. Not to mention foolishly using an oven to sterlise glass. It’s a miracle anyone survived to tell the tale. ;-)

    Quite right, David. Clearly there are many ways to skin a cat – if you’ll forgive the expression ( :stomp: ==>> hey!) And let’s not forget about all the jam we ate as kids that was sealed with paraffin wax. Mmmmm, traces of kerosene in our jam!! Yum!
    My real reason for using the water processing method is that I don’t want to turn the oven on if I don’t have to. -Elizabeth

  7. Bonnie

    I often sterilize my jars in the microwave. This works very well. I don’t think that oven-sterilizing will damage the jars if you use approved canning jars such as mason/ball. I love the old-fashioned way of just cooking down the fruit. It takes longer but you don’t need to use pectin and you add only as much sugar as needed to sweeten the fruit.

    I agree wit some of the above comments. My mother and grandmother never sealed their jam jars with lids, just paraffin. We probably did get sick sometimes and just never attributed it to the jam. Thanks goodness we’re all still here.

  8. Bonnie

    I just thought of something else. Do you have a cake or cookie cooling rack that fits the pot your processing your jam in? Often people will put one of these in the bottom of the pot to set their jars on.

  9. alex@amoderatelife

    Elizabeth! I adore canning and years ago made a purchase of a waterbath canning setup that has the rack inside. I have to haul it out of deep storage because you reminded me of just how satisfying it is to can! Plus it makes awesome christmas gifts! :) Thanks for sharing this on the two for tuesday recipe blog hop! :)

  10. non-jammy sister

    I’m in awe of my jam-making sisters! It almost makes me want to eat jam, but I am not yet tempted to make jam or other preserves…. hahahaha!

  11. katie

    The last year we lived in the Vendee our fruit trees went crazy – I made peach, 3 different plum, pear and apple jams / butters. At that time mon mari was worried about becoming a Type 2 diabetic (his father was) – little knowing that Type 1 was in his future….
    Anyway, I refused to use all the sugar called for…. which meant that I cooked it all a bit longer and it ended up being a bit on the runny side, but it was not nearly so sweet and I felt much better about eating it. And a little went a long way as the fruit was more concentrated. Spent a lot of time putting little dishes of it in the freezer to check consistency, though… I don’t recall adding lemon to anything…. I don’t know why you would need it as sugar is a preservative. Alas, I’m not an expert…..

  12. ejm Post author

    I’ve heard of using the microwave to sterilize jars, Bonnie and if we HAD a microwave, I might do that. And you’re right that jam can be made without pectin. I made apricot and plum jams this weekend, using just sugar in both batches. And I didn’t really feel like I had to stir that much more than when we made jam using added pectin.

    I thought of using a cake rack but the only ones we had didn’t fit. (But we now HAVE a cake rack that we found in Chinatown. It works fabulously.)

    Alex, I looked at some of the waterbath canning systems that had racks inside and it didn’t look like the rack did much at all – it certainly didn’t raise the jars off the bottom of the pot and I thought that was the point. (I hope you do get your jamming equipment out. It’s so satisfying!)

    Ha. Until this year, I was a non-jammy sister too. But it turns out that it’s insanely easy to do!

    Katie, when I made the plum jam this weekend, I SHOULD have used the cold saucer method to check. I ended up with really delicious plum sauce. It was great on pancakes.


  13. Janet

    Do you ever use Redpath Quick Set sugar? It is easy to make jam with-just crushed fruit and the bag of Redpath with some lemon juice.

    I didn’t even know such a thing existed, Janet. But googling about it, I see that it has added pectin. I confess that I’m not keen on adding pectin this way now (after the nightmare with liquid pectin) and will now take my chances with making fruit jam with just sugar and lemon juice. If it turns out to be on the loose side, that’s okay. I’d rather that than having jam that is solid mass and insanely sweet. But thank you for the tip! -Elizabeth


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