A couple of weeks ago, my Mom and I went to pick up some local peaches for canning. When we got there we found it was cheaper to just pick them ourselves and since we had the time, we did just that. We left with three boxes that weighed in at 72 lbs. We really didn't think there was that many and wondered if we should have picked more.
Several hours later, we both realized that we had A LOT of peaches to put up. We first went through and selected the very best & ripe ones for canning bottled peaches. We put up 14 quarts of those. Then I made some spiced peach preserves and that made 19 half-pints. A couple of days later I made some peach citrus preserves and that made another 14 half-pints. The few we had left were used on ice cream, morning oatmeal and for snacks.
After all this, we both decided that next year that 40 lbs. would be plenty! Although it was a long few days of canning, it's always so worth it in the end--we have some wonderful jars of sweet, peach treats that will be so yummy in the winter when fresh peaches aren't really available here.
According to my new favorite canning book, So Easy to Preserve, the difference between jams and preserves is this:
"Jams are made by cooking crushed or chopped fruits with sugar. They are thick, sweet spreads that tend to hold their shape but are less firm than jelly. The shape of fruit pieces are not retained when making jam."
"Preserves are small, whole fruits or uniformly sized pieces in a thick slightly gelled sugar syrup. The fruit should be tender and plump and there should be no mushy or broken up fruit tissue."
I call both recipes a form of peach preserves. The spiced peach preserve is really more of a cross between a jam and a preserve and the peach citrus preserve is definitely more of a preserve than a jam (if you want to be technical about it).
Spiced Peach Preserves
Adapted from So Easy to Preserve, pg. 210
Yields = 19 half-pint jars
20 cups peaches
10 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cardamon
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 lemon, zested
1) Sterilize canning jars. Combine peaches, sugar, spices and lemon juice & zest and slowly bring to boiling (I cook it on low for at least 30 minutes, so the flavors have a chance to infuse with the peaches), stirring occasionally.
2) Cook rapidly until thick, about 15 to 25 minutes (this was a very large batch, so it took a bit longer--if you cut this recipe in half, it won't take as long), stir frequently to prevent sticking.
3) Pour hot jams/preserves into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims and adjust lids. Process 5 minutes in a Boiling Water Bath.
4) Allow jars to sit undisturbed for at least 12 hours before moving them.
*This recipe for spiced peach preserves is on the stronger side, so if you don't want it as pronounced, then use smaller amounts. Also, this is wonderful on grilled chicken!
Peach Citrus Preserves
Adapted from So Easy to Preserve, pg. 210
Yields = 14 half-pint jars
14 cups peaches, cut in large pieces
8 cups sugar
1 large orange, zested & juiced
2 lemons, zested & juiced
1) Sterilize canning jars. Combine peaches, sugar, orange & lemon juices and zests. Cook on low for 45 minutes, till some of the water content is cooked down.
2) Remove peach pieces from syrup using a strainer and set aside in large bowl. Bring peach syrup to 222 degrees f. (use a candy thermometer to monitor heat). Stir frequently & watch carefully (do not leave your kitchen, especially during this step).
3) Once syrup has reached 222 degrees f., remove pan from heat and add peach pieces back into syrup. Put back on medium heat and cook about 5 more minutes, to bring mixture back to even heat and it should thicken a little more.
4) Pour hot jams/preserves into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims and adjust lids. Process 5 minutes in a Boiling Water Bath.
5) Allow jars to sit undisturbed for at least 12 hours before moving them.
*If you don't want to spend as much time cooking down the fruit, you can use pectin and follow the directions given with the package. I didn't have enough pectin at the time, so this was a great way to cook the preserves to be thick enough and still keep the peach pieces intact. I love having larger pieces in my jams/preserves, but you can cut them any size you prefer. These peach citrus preserves are really delicious as an ice cream topping, tart filling, or on toast.