Notes for February 2018: The northern half of the U.S. (and most of Canada, of course) are under snow. So, the crops to pick are pretty much limited to Florida, Texas, southern California and a few other areas of the Deep South. Citus, for one, is a crop that is usually available now; and in those areas, soon also strawberries and blueberries.Check your area's copy calendar (see this page) and call your local farms for seasonal updates.
We also have a website for both Valentine's Day information, facts and fun and one for St. Patrick's day (including great recipes for corned beef, Irish stew, etc.)
Children's Consignment Sales occur in both the Spring and Fall See our companion website to find a local community or church kid's consignment sale!
Next year, don't miss an Easter Egg Hunt for your children: See our companion website to find a local Easter Egg hunt!
We also have home canning, preserving, drying and freezing directions. You can access recipes and other resources from the drop down menus at the top of the page or the site search. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to write me! It is easy to make your own ice cream, even gelato, or low fat or low sugar ice cream - see this page. Also note, there are many copycat website listing U-pick farms now. They have all copied their information form here and usually do not ever update. Since 2002, I've been updating the information every day but Christmas; so if you see anything wrong, please write me!-->
For more information about stone fruits, see Peach Picking Tips
See this page for blueberry jam, this one for fig jam and for berry jams, see strawberry, blackberry, raspberry jam For easy applesauce or apple butter directions, click on these links. I've got some other pages for specific types of jam and butters, too, see this page
This example shows you how to make jam from peaches (and other stone fruits)! The yield from this recipe is about 10 eight-ounce jars (which is the same as 5 pints). You can make any one, or mix fruit. Some people seem to like plum-pineapple or peach-pineapple combinations, also. (crush the pineapple). Blackberries are a nice combination with peaches, as are strawberries.
It's fun to go pick your own and you can obviously get better quality ones! (Damsons are shown in the photo at left)
I prefer to grow my own; which is really easy - but that does take some space and time. As mentioned in the Ingredients section; you may use frozen Peaches (those without syrup or added sugar); which is especially useful if you want to make some jam in December to give away at Christmas!
Jam can ONLY be made in rather small batches - about 6 cups at a time - like the directions on the pectin say, DO NOT increase the recipes or the jam won't "set" (jell, thicken). It takes about 8-10 cups of raw, unprepared, whole peaches per batch; which should yield 5 to 6 cups of prepared peaches. For a nice combination jam, I use 4 cups of mushed (slightly crushed) peaches, 1 cup of raspberries and 1 cup of blackberries.
Now's a good time to get the jars ready, so you won't be rushed later. The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle, the water bath processing will sanitize them as well as the contents! If you don't have a dishwasher with a sanitize cycle, you can wash the containers in hot, soapy water and rinse, then sanitize the jars by boiling them 10 minutes, and keep the jars in hot water until they are used.
NOTE: If unsanitized jars are used, the product should be processed for 5 more minutes. However, since this additional processing can result in a poor set (runny jam), it's better to sanitize the jars.
Put the lids into a pan of hot, but not quite boiling water (that's what the manufacturer's recommend) for 5 minutes, and use the magnetic "lid lifter wand" to pull them out.
Leave the jars in the dishwasher on "heated dry" until you are ready to use them. Keeping them hot will prevent the jars from breaking when you fill them with the hot jam.
Lids: put the very hot (but not quite boiling; around 180 F, steaming water is fine)
water for at least several minutes; to soften up the gummed surface and clean the lids. I just leave them in there, with the heat on very low, until I need them!
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I'm sure you can figure out how to wash the fruit in a colander of plain cold water.
Then you need to pick out and remove any bits of stems, leaves and soft or mushy fruit. It is easiest to do this in a large bowl of water and gently run your hands through the fruit as they float. With your fingers slightly apart, you will easily feel any soft or mushy fruit get caught in your fingers.
Then just drain off the water!
Peaches and nectarines should be peeled, as their skins can be tough / chewy in jam.
For those you want to peel, here's a great trick that works with many fruits and vegetables with skins (like tomatoes): just dip the fruit in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds.
Remove from the water using a slotted spoon and put into a large bowl or pot of cold water and ice.
The skins will easily slide off now IF the peaches are ripe! The more unripe they are, the longer you'll need to heat them.
Then mush them up a bit:
Now, to keep the fruit from turning brown, when you get a bowlful, sprinkle 1/4 cup lemon juice or Fruit-Fresh (which is just a mix of citric acid and vitamin C, perfectly natural). Then stir the peaches to make sure all the surfaces have been coated.
Depending upon which type of jam you're making (sugar, no-sugar, Stevia (but you will have to experiment with amount, each brand of Stevia is a different concetration), or Splenda, or a mix of sugar and Stevia (or Splenda) or fruit juice) you will need to use a different amount of sugar and type of pectin. The precise measurements are found in directions inside each and every box of pectin sold (every brand, Ball, Kerr, Mrs. Wages, etc. has directions inside). I think the low sugar version is best for both flavor and health.
Type of jam you
Type of pectin to buy
|regular||no-sugar or regular||7 cups of sugar|
|low sugar||no-sugar||4.5 cups of sugar|
|lower sugar||no-sugar||2 cups sugar and 2 cups Splenda (or about 1/3 that if you use Stevia, which is my preference)|
|no sugar||no-sugar||4 cups Splenda (or about 1/3 that if you use Stevia, which is my preference)|
|natural||no-sugar||3 cups fruit juice (grape, peach, apple or mixed)|
Keep this separate from the rest of the sugar. If you are not using sugar, you'll just have to stir more vigorously to prevent the pectin from clumping.
Notes about pectin: I usually add about 25% - 30% more pectin (just open another pack and add a little) or else the jam is runnier than I like. With a little practice, you'll find out exactly how much pectin to get the thickness you like.
For more about the types of pectin sold, see this page!
Is your jam too runny? Pectin enables you to turn out perfectly set jam every time. Made from natural apples, there are also natural no-sugar pectins that allow you to reduce the sugar you add by half or even eliminate sugar!
Get them all here at the best prices on the internet!
Stir the pectin into the Peaches, add the 1/2 cup of water, and put the mix in a big pot on the stove over medium to high heat (stir often enough to prevent burning). It should take about 5 to 10 minutes to get it to a full boil (the kind that cannot be stirred away).
When the berry-pectin mix has reached a full boil, add the rest of the sugar (about 4 cups of sugar per 6 cup batch of Peaches) or other sweetener, and then bring it back to a boil and boil hard for 1 minute.
I keep a metal tablespoon sitting in a glass of ice water, then take a half spoonful of the mix and let it cool to room temperature on the spoon. If it thickens up to the consistency I like, then I know the jam is ready. If not, I mix in a little more pectin (about 1/s to 1/2 of another package) and bring it to a boil again for 1 minute.
Fill them to within ¼-inch of the top, wipe any spilled jam off the top, seat the lid and tighten the ring around them. Then put them into the boiling water canner!
This is where the jar tongs and lid lifter come in really handy!
Keep the jars covered with at least 2 inches of water. Keep the water boiling. In general, boil them for 5 minutes. I say "in general" because you have to process (boil) them longer at higher altitudes than sea level, or if you use larger jars, or if you did not sanitize the jars and lids right before using them. The directions inside every box of pectin will tell you exactly. The directions on the pectin tend to be pretty conservative. Clemson University says you only need to process them for 5 minutes. I usually hedge my bets and start pulling them out after 7 minutes, and the last jars were probably in for 10. I rarely have a jar spoil, so it must work.
Note: Some people don't even boil the jars; they just ladle it hot into hot jars, put the lids and rings on and invert them, but putting the jars in the boiling water bath REALLY helps to reduce spoilage! To me, it makes little sense to put all the working into making the jam and then not to process the jars to be sure they don't spoil!
Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight) You can then remove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, then that's a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it's usually ok.
Once cooled, they're ready to store. I find they last up to 12 months. But after about 6 to 8 months, they get darker in color and start to get runny. They still are safe to eat, but the flavor and texture aren't as good. So eat them in the first 6 months after you prepare them!
From left to right:
You can get all of the tools in a kit here:
Summary - Cost of Making Homemade Peach Jam - makes 8 jars, 8 oz each**
|Item||Quantity||Cost in 2008||Source||Subtotal|
|Peaches||1 gallon||$8.00/gallon||Pick your own||$8.00|
|Canning jars (8 oz size), includes lids and rings||10 jars||$7.00/dozen||Grocery stores, like Public, Kroger, Safeway and sometimes, Big Lots, local hardware stores and big box stores||$6.00|
|Sugar||5 cups||$2.00||Grocery stores, like Public, Kroger, Safeway and sometimes, Big Lots, local hardware stores and big box stores||$2.00|
|Pectin (low sugar, dry)||1 and a quarter boxes||$2.00 per box||Grocery stores, like Public, Kroger, Safeway and sometimes, Big Lots, local hardware stores and big box stores||$2.70|
or about $1.87 per 8 oz jar
|* - This assumes you already have the pots, pans, ladles, and reusable equipment. Note that you can reuse the jars, and that reduces the cost! Just buy new lids (the rings are reusable, but the flat lids are not)!|
You could always open the jars, add another 5 cups of chopped peaches, use 1.5 packets of no sugar-needed pectin and follow the remake directions: http://www.pickyourown.org/how_to_fix_runny_jam.htm then and only use enough addition sugar to sweeten to taste!
Sure, you could do that! I'm not sure the quality would be as good as from fresh or frozen peaches, but I think it would be acceptable.
If a larger quantity of juice is used, it will be necessary to boil it longer thus causing loss of flavor, darkening of jelly, and toughening of jelly. It really doesn't work. Trust me; I've tried many times!
Yep! Raspberries can be particularly hard to find fresh and are expensive! Frozen fruit work just fine, and measure the same. Just be sure to get the loose, frozen whole fruit; not those that have been mushed up or frozen in a sugar syrup
It should be boiled rapidly since long, slow boiling destroys the pectin in the fruit juice.
Discard jams and jellies with mold on them. The mold could be producing a mycotoxin (poisonous substance that can make you sick). USDA and microbiologists recommend against scooping out the mold and using the remaining jam or jelly.
Jellied fruit products may ferment because of yeast growth. This can occur if the product is improperly processed and sealed, or if the sugar content is low. Fermented fruit products have a disagreeable taste. Discard them.
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