An all year round jam
Inever make enough peach jam. Somehow the season passes me by and before I know it I've managed only a single batch and that seems to disappear in no time at all.
Of all the preserves I make, I find peach jam the most challenging. As a novice cook my efforts were invariably syrupy. I now use a French recipe and, as they say, experience is a great teacher. I have become rather gung-ho and now use lots of lemon juice and zest and lavish quantities of peach pulp.
However, I have only recently discovered the delights of the dried peach.
Most cooks will be familiar with dried apricots but the dried peach is simply delicious made into today's easy and fairly economical jam. The colour is superb and I don't think anyone will disagree when I say the flavour is out of this world. High praise, indeed, but for something that was really an experiment, the results have exceeded my expectations.
I don't recall dried peaches as a child. Dried fruit was fairly standard; dates, currants, sultanas and raisins were in most pantries. Figs too, but not peaches, bananas, papaya or other tropical delights that can now be bought at any supermarket.
When using dried fruit in jam it is important that re-hydration takes place before you start cooking. I allow the fruit to soak overnight after cutting it into pieces with scissors. A knife is hopeless for this job.
The flavour and colour of preserves made with dried fruit are more intense than their fresh counterparts. I add lemon juice and zest to most jam as it gives me the sharpness I like. Tartaric acid will give you a similar sharpness. As well as adding flavour, tartaric acid (a natural substance) is a valuable setting agent in a low-pectin jam such as this.
EASY-AS PEACH JAM
Makes 5 small jars
300g dried peaches
1 litre plus 1 cup cold water
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp tartaric acid
1/2 cup chopped crystallised ginger (optional)
Using scissors, cut peaches into chunks.
Put in a sieve and rinse under cold running water.
Place fruit in a glass or china bowl.
Add the water, stir, then cover bowl with a clean cloth.
Leave for 24 hours or at least overnight.
Pour peaches and soaking water into a heavy pan.
Bring to a rapid boil and cook for 10 minutes.
Stir often to prevent sticking.
Add lemon juice and zest and sugar.
Boil briskly for 15 minutes.
Add the tartaric acid and ginger (if using) and cook, stirring often, for a further 10 minutes.
Spoon into clean jars, seal and label.
Before I add the sugar I use a potato masher to break up the fruit.
This a pulpy jam, ideal for scones or crumpets.
The Southland Times