Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hot Damn, Peach Jam!

My mom and I planted the peach tree as soon as we got settled in our little house back in '97. It was to mark our new adventure here in Austin and nothing makes me happier than to see our little tree covered in fruit! I have no idea what variety it is, but I know that if we have a cold, wet winter, we'll have fruit! From what I've read, you need between 400-750 chill hours here in the hill country to set fruit and I'm guessing that mine is closer to 750.

I knew nothing about growing fruit trees back then and chalk the health of my tree up to pure luck. I pruned it whenever I felt like it needed a haircut, never once fertilized or watered it but for the past several years have stuck to the thinning, which leaves a mess of marble size balls all over the ground for the bugs n' birds, I always save a big bowl for my neighbor Hai, who is Vietnamese and grew up eating unripe peaches with salt! It's nice to share before they're even ready!

Dorothy is excellent company in the garden. After she's chased away any birds or squirrels she slows down and investigates the plants, she actually closes her eyes when she smells flowers, she's pure sweetness. She also snorfels up the rotten peaches that have fallen to the's nothing I encourage, but it's also something I can't she loves them...flies and all.

The bounty minus the 'greenies' still sitting outside on the table in the sun.
I didn't count them this year, but my last harvest was 3 years ago and I stopped counting then at 200. Thinning really makes the difference. The rule of thumb, is one peach per 6 inches...which means that you thin up to 92% and it seems crazy when you're doing it, but a mature tree simply can't hold the weight of all that fruit and you can damage the tree, mine is already bifurcated (when the main trunk splits) so I take this seriously. I fill the sink about halfway, then wash'em good before the dirty work begins.

And this is what I mean. I leave the peaches out for a few days to soften before I begin and once you move the bowls there are always a few worms that have jumped ship. The enemy: plum curculio beetle larvae...eating it's way through the peach flesh. I don't mind sharing though, it beats spraying or dealing with chemicals.
There's the little guy.

And this is more like what you find in each peach, several worms.
The chickens got 5 big cereal bowls full of brown peach flesh, pits and the last bowl they were getting kinda bored.
Once they're cleaned and de-wormed though, they're just the same as any other peach, only they're organic...and the processing is one of the reasons you pay more for organic food.In all the batch I only found one perfect peach...when I cut it open, sure worms. Hard to believe they missed it...they're so thorough.

Always have a secret ingredient...or it ain't yours!
So, in my big beer brewing pot, I fill it halfway with peaches, add a cup of lemon juice, and a packet of pectin...half the sugar, about 2 1/2 cups (organic), half a jar of pickled jalapenos and cook it long enough that the peaches are soft and 'gooshay' (that's for you Ellen!) After it's up to a good boil, I add another 2 1/2 cups of the sugar and drop the heat a bit. The secret ingredient goes in at the beginning as well!

mmmm, makes the house smell wonderful!

Spouse picked up a few dozen jars at the Minimax and that's just about right! I fill 'em right off the heat and turn them over to start the sealing process.

There's enough for another 'plain' batch or I can keep 'em for smoothies and Margaritas....hmmm what should I do?

What you see there in the Bonne Mama jar is all that was left over!

Just to be sure of the seal, I pour boiling water over the top and let them sit for a spell. The carpenter showed up just at the end and I got distracted...otherwise I listen to hear each top pop as they cool...I'm hoping they're okay. Here's my favorite sandwich recipe with CherylAnn's Jalepeno Peach jam add peanut butter, Tillmook cheddar cheese, arugula fresh from the garden on homemade's got everything! sweet, salty, nutty, creamy, spicy, cheezy, and fresh! Much improved from the plain ole PPJ of yester-year!
Yum! If anyone has some pickled okra or beans or such and would like to trade some of my yummy goodness for yours, lemme know! Making jam isn't a science, it's a passion and you can't really go wrong with good ingredients and an attitude of love!
Happy Gardening!


Cindy, MCOK said...

Wow, that looks scrumptious and I'm impressed with all your hard work. I wish I had something to trade you!

Caroline said...

Looks delicious! A lot of work but when you're done, you can enjoy the bounty for months (if they last that long!).

Dana said...

Wow! How delicious.

Thinning fruit, seedlings, and pruning are the absolute hardest tasks for me in the garden.

cat said...

oh it looks good!! i love canning...i find it very satisfying and just don't do it enough. you are inspiring me..:)

i left an award for you over at my blog...i usually don't do these, but this one was so nice and unexpected i really wanted to pass on the love..:)

hope your 4th was fabulous!

Tina Poe said...

That is an impressive amount of peaches! I bet it all tastes as good as it looks.

mss @ Zanthan Gardens said...

Mmmm. That looks yummy. I only have a Mexican plum tree but it is loaded with fruit this year. Thinking of making some umeboshi. Your photos are encouraging me to try something.

Hill Country Hippie said...

Wow, that's a passel of peaches! Thanks for stopping by my blog, and so glad I decided to return the favor! I sense a kindred spirit here: planted our first peach tree this year and was looking for just the kind of advice you offered here; I have that same flowered metal bowl, and Mrs. Meyers basil scent on the back of my sink; most importantly, I see lots of color on that house of yours. I just LOVE color!

Rosey said...

Canning is making a comeback, I hear. What a rewarding harvest for you.

I have NEVER canned peach jam but tried tomatoes a few years back. I need to get with it and try again.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Blackswamp_Girl said...

WHAT?!?! You can EAT unripe peaches with salt?!?!?!!!!

Now I'm ruing having left all of my slightly-larger-than-marble-sized thinnings on the ground for the birds without trying them first. *pouts*

Anonymous said...

If you don't want the worms (I've heard they can spread wilt, which is an issue with peach trees in Austin) a friend of mine swears by those little stocking socks you wear when you try on shoes. Just slip em on when you thin, they stretch with the growing peach and keep most the worms out.