Today marks the first official day of summer here in the states and it also marks the height of the peach season in Georgia. Georgia is known as the ‘peach state’ and has a reputation for growing the sweetest and juiciest peaches in the country. The peach season here usually runs from mid May to mid August and Georgia peaches are (so I am told) legendary. Their intense sweetness – a result of a searing summer heat, high humidity and sultry nights which produce ‘suGeorgia’ (sweet Georgia sugar) – sanctions reverence of this lovely fruit.
Peaches can be very fickle and I am fickle in my choice of them. Too early and the peaches are hard and exhibit little of their sweet flavour. Over ripe and they are unpleasant with soft mushy flesh. At their peak however peaches are rosy gold, delicately fuzzed, sweet smelling and even sweeter tasting. On these generously warm Georgia days, I can be found bent over the sink peach in hand with the cold tap running. It reminds me of eating mangoes in Queensland (my home state in Australia). You need a small child’s wading pool, your togs and beautiful Bowen mangoes. Its not pretty and not for the faint hearted (or those with genteel manners) but it really is one of the best ways to devour a mango.
Today I have decided to skulk about in my kitchen with perfectly pretty yellow-red blushed peaches for company…..all of which I am making into jam. It is beastly hot out but the air conditioner is working overtime and the kitchen is cool and welcoming.
Sweetened by the sun they are a beautiful sight…..
My peach jam recipe:
* Sterilize your jars
* 2 pounds of peaches, 1 pound of sugar, the juice of 1 lemon (I don’t use the normal jam ration of one to one as I like my jams on the less sweeter side).
* Pit and coarsely chop the peaches….I like to leave the skin on. Toss the cut peaches in the sugar and lemon juice and allow to sit for at least 2 hours (although I find overnight is better). In a heavy based pan gently simmer the mixture over a low heat – this will take quite a while so don’t pencil too much in for the remainder of the day. Stir the mix frequently and as the jam ‘foams’ skim the froth from the pan. I find if you leave the foam in the mix your jam becomes a little cloudy. Don’t discard the ‘foam’ though. I like it stirred through plain Greek yogurt and for a southern touch top with chopped pecans.
* When you think it may be ready you need to ‘test’ your jam. Remove the pot from the heat and drop a small amount of jam onto a small cool plate. Let the dollop stand for a moment then push it slightly. The jam should ‘ripple’ to the touch. If it is still a little ‘runny’, place the jam back onto the heat and cook further.
* Pour into your sterilized jars and seal.
Later in the year I will take from the pantry a stored jar of peach jam and remember fondly this day. I will recall the heat of my first summer in Georgia, the immense scorched pale sky, the two blue jays in the bird bath and the little family of wood ducks seeking relief from the heat under the shade of the pecan tree in our back yard. It all makes for happy days x