Sunday, July 28, 2013

Peach-Habanero Jam Goodness

A couple of years ago, I stumbled on a recipe for a peach-jalapeno jelly.  I had a basket of peaches that were fresh and juicy and happened to also have a couple of jalapenos so I went for it.  I found it a bit tricky to get the right consistency- I played around with the pectin the recipe called for and yet it wasn't setting properly. I kept it though, and we loved using it on savoury items- it was perfect with chicken, as an example, and had a great mix of sweet and spicy.

This year, I thought about trying it again when I saw a beautiful basket of in-season peaches.  I decided to crank up the heat a little more by swapping out the jalapenos and adding habaneros in its place and making a jam instead of a jelly.  I also decided to try it without pectin.

Tip: if you're curious about how much heat habaneros have compared to jalapenos, you can review the Scoville scale here.

2 lbs of ripe peaches
Hot pepper of your choice (you can use as little as you like, and as a tip- don't include the pith or seeds if you want to reduce the heat).  I used 3 habanero peppers in this one.
1 full cup of vinegar with at least 5% acidity (I used a local blueberry vinegar from Boates)
3/4 cup of clover honey (I used a local honey from the farmers' market)
2 cups of sugar
Makes about 5 half pint jars.

The first step is to remove the skins from the peaches.  The easiest way to do this is to lightly mark an X on the peach and then put them into a pot of boiling water for 60-90 seconds.  Remove them from the pot and put them into a bowl of cold water.  Let them cool for 2-3 minutes, then you can peel off the skins.

I then prepare the hot peppers by chopping them finely.  Be very, very careful when cutting habaneros- their oils release when they're cut and they can burn your skin.  I recommend wearing disposable gloves when working with them and be very careful about cleaning up your tools and work area afterwards.  I always use a plastic cutting board and throw it in the dishwasher immediately after using it.  I toss the gloves and then thoroughly wash my hands with hot water and lots of soap.

I further chopped these to make them smaller; the bigger the pieces, the bigger the punch of flavour you'll get in the jam when you bite into a piece.
Once the peaches had their skins removed, it was time to cut them into pieces and remove the pits.  In a large non-stick pot, the pieces of peaches and cup of vinegar were added.  I then used a potato masher to smash up the fruit into smaller bits.  It's a good opportunity to take out your frustrations- smash away!

I then added the habanero pieces and brought the mixture to a boil.  Once it was boiling, I turned down the stove to a medium heat and let it cook for about 20 minutes. I skimmed off the foam that appeared as it cooked. Once the mixture was nice and soft, I added the sugar and honey and stirred it regularly.  I let it cook for about another 20-25 minutes, checking the consistency.

When a mixture reaches a jam-like consistency, it's like magic.  Suddenly it feels thick, the fruit is reduced, and the mixture sticks to a spoon easily.  It's then time to get them into jars and process them so they're shelf stable.

I followed the same canning process that I used for the strawberry jam- sterilized jars, new rims that had been in simmering water, and filled the jars until there was 1/4" of head space free.  I ran a small stick (chopstick works well) through the jar to remove air bubbles and gave the jars a wipe to make sure the tops were clean before putting their lids and bands on. I then put them in a pot of boiling water (a rolling boil) on a rack covered completely with water, and processed them for 10 minutes.  Once they came out, I cooled them on a rack and listened for the "pop" of the lids sealing.  If your lids didn't seal properly, put those jars in the fridge.  Please, please do not just put hot jam into a sterilized jar and think it's safe to put in the cupboard. You have to process them either in a hot water bath or pressure canner in order to preserve it properly.  If you don't feel like doing either, then just keep your goodies in the fridge.

If you like a sweet and spicy combination, I highly recommend this jam!

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