My friend Robyn and I have a pretty good system going. She gives me food, and I make something more out of them. She gave me sundried tomato tapenade, and I made tapenade bread. She gave me organic peaches from her trees, and I made jam. Sweet, delicious jam that I can eat by the spoonful straight from the jar.
Vanilla-peach preserves are so simple yet so comforting. Peaches always remind me of summer… the heavy fruity scent filling the air, the blushing skin and golden flesh, the first tender bite on a sunny day while licking juices off my fingers. When I pop open a jar of peach preserves on a dreary winter day, I feel like I’m getting a little whiff of summer.
Since my mishmash of peaches came from my friend’s backyard, I was working with all different sizes of peaches… from golf balls to baseballs. In the end, you want to end up with about 6 cups of finely chopped fruit, so adjust your peach amounts accordingly. You can also use donut peaches, apricots, nectarines, or any combination thereof.
Makes 5 half-pints
10 to 15 small to medium peaches
1 vanilla bean
1/4 cup bottled lemon juice
4 tablespoons low-sugar pectin (I use Ball Low/No-Sugar Needed Pectin)
1 1/2 cups sugar
Making Your Vanilla-Peach Preserves
Peel and pit the peaches. With a small batch like this one, I use a serrated peeler to remove the skin, but you can also use the blanching method.
To blanch for peeling, mark an X at the bottom of each peach with a knife. Drop a few peaches into boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds until the skin starts to loosen. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer the blanched peaches to a large bowl of ice water. When they are cool enough to handle, simply slip off the skin by peeling back the X flaps with your fingers.
Finely chop the peeled and pitted peaches. You should end up with about 6 cups of fruit.
Split a vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out all the seeds. (Ahhh… that sweet morsel of caviar!)
Combine the chopped peaches, vanilla seeds, scraped vanilla bean (just in case you miss any seeds), and lemon juice in a large pot over high or medium-high heat. Stir in the pectin, and bring to a full boil.
Boil the mixture vigorously for several minutes, stirring constantly, until the peaches and vanilla are well blended, and the fruit reaches a thick, jammy consistency.
Stir in the sugar, return to a full boil, and boil for another minute. The mixture should be bubbly and boiling to a point where it cannot be stirred down.
Remove the pot from heat and discard the vanilla bean. Stir to make sure the fruit is well distributed.
Ladle the preserves into hot, clean jars, seal with rings and lids, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (adjust time for altitude if needed).
Besides the cheery color of these peach preserves, I love how you can also see flecks of vanilla bean in the little jars!