Summer Stone Fruit Preserves

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One of the best ways to preserve the flavors of summer is by making jams and fruit butters. There’s something wonderful about a fresh apricot jam sandwich come December. Or use it to make thumbprint cookies for the end of the year holidays. stone_fruitsJams are generally crushed or chopped fruit with sugar and sometimes pectin. Fruit butters are fruits that are cooked for a long period of time until reduced to a thick buttery consistency—think apple butter. Traditional jam and butter recipes call for about equal amounts of fruit and sugar. I find these to be cloyingly sweet so I use about –½ the amount of sugar to fruit. The amount depends on how sweet the fruit is already.

Pectin vs. Purists
Some cooks are purists and don’t like to use pectins. Without the use of pectin, you need to cook the fruit longer. This either intensifies the flavor or can muddy the flavor if you cook it for too long. For berries, I prefer to use pectin and a short cooking time to get the real/fresh summer flavor. I feel the same way about peaches. Other stone fruits, such as plums, nectarines and apricots, can be great both ways.

I recently did a taste test on apricot quick-cooked jam with pectin vs. apricot butter. My partner much preferred the jam while Pia, his daughter, much preferred the butter. Personally, I’m torn and it’ll depend on what I’m using it on. I like the jam better for PB&J. But the apricot butter will be fantastic with cheese, i.e. an artisanal cheddar or chèvre. Pectin is a natural ingredient found in fruits in varying degrees. Lemons are high in pectin while sweeter fruits like strawberries are lower in pectin. I use Pomona Pectin, which can be found at most natural food stores or is available online. But, you can get more traditional pectins at any supermarket. Just be sure to buy one that is made for low sugar.

The Sugar Test

nectarine jam

The amounts given in the recipes are based on my taste, though the degree of natural sweetness in fruits is a factor. This is a quick test for how much sugar you should add for your taste. Crush ½ cup of fruit and add 1 tablespoon of sugar. Stir and set aside for about 15 minutes and taste it. If it’s sweet enough, you need ¼ cup of sugar for each cup of fruit. If not, add another tablespoon and set aside, then taste again. Each tablespoon of sugar required equals ¼ cup of sugar for each cup of fruit you’re using. Once you’ve determined the right amount of sugar you can add this mixture to the rest of the unsweetened fruit.

Tools of the Trade
You can make jams without specialized tools but these will make it easier, and they’re inexpensive and readily available. They include jar tongs, a lid lifter, and large mouth funnel. If you don’t have a canning pot with a rack, you can use a large pot with a rack on the bottom or use a steamer insert. A pasta pot with the strainer insert also works very well.

Sterilizing the Jars
There are a few ways to sterilize the jars for the jam. If your dishwasher has a sterilize cycle, this is the easiest way. Otherwise, bring a large pot of water to a boil and place jars on the rack making sure they are filled and covered with water. Boil for 5 minutes. You can also sterilize them by placing them on cookie sheet in an oven heated to 300 degrees for at least 10 minutes. Wash the lids and rings in hot soapy water, rinse, and place in very hot—but not boiling—water until ready to use.

To Peel or Not to Peel
When making jam or fruit butter, I prefer to peel fruit with fuzzy skin like peaches and some apricots. Smooth skin fruits like plums and nectarines don’t require peeling. To peel, you can use a serrated vegetable peeler or place fruit in boiling water for 1 minute, set aside to cool and the peel will slip off easily.

You’ll want to work on a surface that won’t crack with heat. You can use a large cutting board or a few layers of towels to avoid cracking tile countertops.

Stone Fruit Jam

Ingredients:

stone_fruits

4 cups of chopped apricots, plums, nectarines, or peaches
2 teaspoons lemon juice (this helps the jam to set up and keep the fresh color)
2 teaspoons calcium water (if using Pomona Pectin, it comes in the package)
1½ cups sugar (more or less to taste)
Pectin per package instructions

Directions (these assume powdered pectin. If using liquid pectin, add it according to package directions):

  • Mix together the fruit and lemon juice (and calcium water if using Pomona Pectin) and bring to a boil in a heavy bottom saucepan.
  • Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar and pectin.
  • When fruit is at a full rolling boil, gradually stir in sugar/pectin mixture stirring briskly until it is dissolved.
  • Continue cooking for one minute.
  • Remove from heat and put into sterilized jars using a ladle and the large mouth funnel.
  • With a wet towel or paper towel, carefully wipe the rims to remove any jam or the jars won’t seal properly.
  • Using the lid lifter, take the lids from the hot water and place on the jars. Add the rings and tighten.
  • Water process for 10 minutes, and then remove with the jar tongs. Be careful to keep jar upright and place on a cooling rack, cutting board or towels.
  • Set aside to cool. You’ll hear a pop and the center of the ring will go flat when they are set.stonefruit jam

_______________

Stone Fruit Butter

INGREDIENTS
4 cups of chopped apricots, plums, nectarines,
or peaches
2 teaspoons lemon juice (this helps the jam to set up and keep the fresh color)
1½ cups sugar (more or less to taste)

Directions:

  • Mix together the fruit and lemon juice and sugar and bring to a boil in a heavy bottom saucepan.
  • Reduce heat to low and simmer until the butter is very thick, stirring frequently. This will take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how juicy your fruit is. To test if it’s done, place about ½ teaspoon on a small plate and put in the freezer for 2 minutes. If it holds its shape it’s done.
  • Remove from heat and put into sterilized jars using a ladle and the wide mouth funnel.
  • With a wet towel or paper towel, carefully wipe the rims to remove any jam or the jars won’t seal properly.
  • Using the lid lifter, take the lids from the hot water and place on the jars. Add the rings and tighten.
  • Water process for 10 minutes, and then remove with the jar tongs. Be careful to keep jar upright and place on a cooling rack, cutting board or towels.
  • Set aside to cool. You’ll hear a pop and the center of the ring will go flat when they are set.

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