Suzie’s amazing peach jam!
I indeed consider myself very lucky that, in the last few years, I can combine about two months of summer holidays with cooking on Cycladic islands.
What I look forward to all year round, are the things that fill me with bliss: cooking and swimming! I swim every day, either first thing in the morning or as the sun sets, when there aren’t many people on the beach. I start off on one beach and end up at another, one without umbrellas and sun beds. One such course is from Lia beach to Tsagaraki. Takes about 20 minutes.
En route, I forget everything: exhaustion, cares, aching muscles…it can be tricky round the cape when it’s very windy, and it gets a little uneasy when the sea turns pitch black beneath you, but swimming is like meditating, and if you concentrate on each stroke, time flies by and bypasses a number of transitory, fleeting emotions.
When there are strong Aegean winds, I have to forego swimming for cooking with friends. Suzie is one of my oldest friends, American-Greek (from Mykonos) and a very good cook. She goes in search of fresh eggs, local wines and cheeses, hand-woven rugs from the last remaining looms, you know what I’m talking about…
Every single summer, without fail, a little before she sets off from the island, on a very windy day, we make peach jam. We seal it in little jars and some travel across the Atlantic, others stay in her fridge throughout Autumn, and some go as gifts to friends.
The following recipe retains a lot of the fruits’ natural aroma, so it’s worth choosing the best peaches you can find.
It’s also good having the best of company to cook them with…
Suzie’s Peach Jam…
|Pick the best peaches in the market, ripe but not bruised, their flesh should recede a little when you press on them.
You’ll need about 12 middle sized peaches or 10 large ones and 800 gm/28.22 oz sugar to make about 2 k/70.55 oz or 8 cups of jam.
Ask for a crater from your greengrocer so you can transfer the peaches home without bruising them. Don’t place them in the fridge – keep them at room temperature.
|Once you’ve rinsed the peaches, carve a small cross on their base with a sharp knife.|
|One at a time, sink each peach for 30 seconds into a saucepan of water that’s been simmering.|
|Pick each peach up with a slotted spoon from the hot water and immerse it in a bowl of water and ice cubes for some seconds. The sudden change in temperature will make peeling them easier.|
|Peel the peaches starting from the cross you’d carved, pulling the skin downwards. (Remove any bruised or black parts) Could this process be the reason why this jam is so fragrant? Honestly, I’ve never tasted any other peach jam as full of aroma as this…|
|Chop the peaches into small pieces and press them with a potato masher or a fork, without crushing them to a pulp altogether.|
The time has come to measure out 8 cups of finely chopped fruit and place them in a pot, without adding any sugar yet. Let the peaches simmer for 10 minutes.
|When the boiled fruit looks softer, add 4 cups of sugar and 2 ½ teaspoons lemon juice that you’ve passed through a sieve. Increase the heat and continue boiling, stirring continuously. Alternatively, you can add some vanilla extract or a piece of ginger for taste, but Suzie adds nothing more!|
|Keep removing the froth that appears on the surface during boiling and don’t forget to keep stirring so the jam doesn’t stick at the bottom of the pot. The jam is ready when, after about 20 minutes, it sticks to the back of a wooden spoon without sliding off and when stirring the fruit becomes harder because the jam’s thickened.|
|Sink the little jars you’ll be placing the jam in, as well as the lids in a deep saucepan with boiling water and 1 tablespoon white vinegar, as your jam is boiling. Dry them very well with a tea towel or kitchen paper until there is no humidity left at all. This is very important!|
|Transfer the jam into the hot sterilised jars and fill almost to the top. If you don’t have a special funnel with a wide neck, fill a jug with jam and slowly pour it into the jars, cleaning the outside of the jars with a wet cloth.|
|Screw the lids on and turn the jars upside down for 24 hours. Keep them at room temperature, then transfer to the fridge. This recipe fills 6 medium sized jars with about 2 k/70.55 oz of jam.|
|Suzie’s utensils, plus two saucepans, one small one for sinking the fruit into one at a time, and another bigger one with boiling water for sterilising the jars and lids. Have a bowl of water and ice cubes nearby that you’ll keep topping up once they melt. You’ll also need a wooden spoon with a long handle to stir the jam with, as it spits when it boils! This recipe needs good company and a well organised kitchen bench with everything you’ll need.|
|Good luck and hope your summer is full of sweet fragrant fruit!|