Saffron turns simple sweet peaches into something earthy, musky and savory. In other words, this jam might not be the best choice for a thumbprint cookie destined for a bake sale.
The chef-author uses the jam to accent shrimp and scallops and with merguez sausages and lamb. A tablespoon blended into a tomato vinaigrette makes a sweet-sour salad dressing. And it's not off-limits at dessert. Try it with something neutral, like vanilla panna cotta. Or layer it into a trifle with pastry cream and ladyfingers soaked in the juices from brandied peaches.
Because the weight of the peaches is based on pitted peaches, start with just under 5 pounds of whole fruit. You will need a thermometer. You'll need a jar lifter or a pair of heavy-duty tongs with silicone or rubberized tips, and a food mill.
Make Ahead: The cooked fruit needs to be cooled, then refrigerated overnight or up to 5 days before it is jarred and processed in a water bath. Store the jam (unopened) in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year.
Servings: 5 half-pints
- 4 1/2 pounds fresh, ripe peaches, cut in half and pitted (12 cups)
- 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
- Freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 lemon (at least 2 tablespoons)
- 1 tablespoon (about 1 1/2 grams) saffron threads
Combine the peaches, sugar, lemon juice and saffron in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Bring to a boil and stir well. Cook until the fruit releases its juices, about 12 minutes. Cool, then transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate overnight or up to 5 days.
Pass the mixture through a food mill fitted with the coarse plate into a large, heavy-bottomed pot, discarding what's left in the mill. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then cook to form a jam, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until its temperature reaches 215 degrees.
Place a rack or a small towel in the bottom of stockpot. Fill with water and heat over medium heat, making sure the water does not come to a boil. Carefully add 5 half-pint jars and let them heat up for a few minutes. Turn off the heat, leaving them in the water until you are ready to use them.
Soak new jar lids and rings in a saucepan of hot, but not boiling, water, leaving them in the water until you are ready to use them.
Drain the jars and place upright on the counter. Transfer the peach jam to something with a pour spout or use a wide-mouth funnel to fill the jars, leaving about a 1/2-inch of headspace. Wipe the rims of the jars so they are free of any food particles, then seal with the lids, screwing on the rings until they are snug yet not too tight.
Place the jars in the stockpot. If needed, add enough water to cover the jars by at least an inch or so. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Process the jars for 10 minutes, starting a timer once the water reaches a boil. Turn off the heat and leave the jars in the water for a few minutes. Remove the jars from the water and let cool completely. Check to make sure the rings are not on too tight before storing.
Adapted from "The Preservation Kitchen: The Craft of Making and Cooking with Pickles, Preserves and Aigre-doux," by Paul Virant with Kate Leahy (Ten Speed Press, 2012).
Tested by Cecilia Stoute.
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