Crusty bread, real butter and a heaping spoonful of Homemade White Peach Preserves with Cherries and Pecans. The cherries and pecans are what give these preserves an added twist and transport them to a whole new "canning" dimension. Not only does it taste scrumptious, but the jars themselves are a beautiful presentation for a homemade gift idea.
The last time I remember canning these Homemade Peach Preserves with Cherries and Pecans was back in the Fall of 2008. My mom and my daughter in law (although I consider her my own) and I ventured one Saturday to an apple and peach orchard. We spent the whole afternoon "hunting" luscious fruit as we meandered through the low hanging, heavy-laden branches. The experience of "U-Pick Orchards" is more than fruit gathering. It's the wonder of nature, the aroma of freshly picked fruit, and an adventure shared with those you love. We were like giggling little girls that day, peach juice dripping from our chins and forearms as we indulged under a shaded canopy of peach trees.
Sweet Memories of Times Gone By
Since then, my mom has passed and I'm left reminiscing about "U-Pick Orchards" and my Momma's homemade peach preserves. So I decided to spend the day in honor of her. I ended up at a remote peach orchard about 30 minutes from my place. It was a quiet early morning in the middle of the week and not a soul was to be found. Hovering over the day were sweet memories of times gone by spent with my mom. My takeaway from the stillness of that morning: Make memories while you can, because all too quickly they're gone.
Searching for the Homemade Peach Preserves with Cherries and Pecans Recipe
I still have in my possession all of my mom's prized cookbooks. So I began to search high and low for her beloved Homemade Peach Preserves with Cherries and Pecans recipe. With peaches galore surrounding me, I went through every handwritten note stuck in the back of a cookbook and every recipe card that I could find of hers but I came up empty-handed. So I had to revert to memory. I tried and re-tried a few variations. Then as I sampled the last batch, there it was!! The taste of sweet memories. So, I offer to you this long-standing, sentimental, and cherished peach preserve recipe.
First Step - Peel the Peaches with a Hot Water Bath
The first step in canning these preserves is to peel the peaches. This can be a tedious job without the help of blanching in a pot of boiling water for about 30-40 seconds. Then these little babies are plunged into an ice water bath for few seconds to stop the cooking process. Voila, the skins peel away like magic, well, with a little assistance from your paring knife. Once you pull them from the cold water, cut around the peach from top to bottom to top again to split them in half. Twist, and take out the pit. Using your paring knife grab ahold of the soft skin and remove. It's as easy as 1 2 3. As simple as, Do Re Mi, A B C, 1 2 3. Baby you and me! Sorry, I just got a little carried away.
There's a Difference Between Jams and Preserves
The ratio of sugar to fruit seems a little excessive, but believe me, in the end, you'll discover a sweetness in the jar that will kiss your tastebuds. And, actually, you need a large amount of sugar to get the preserves to a thickened state when cooking. After the peaches are peeled, cut them up in pretty large chunks because the cooking process will reduce their size.
There is a difference between jams and preserves. Jam is a spread made from the fruit pulp or the whole "crushed" fruit. Preserves, on the other hand, have large chunks of fruit that rests in a jam-like substance. In this recipe, I combined 8 cups a chunked fruit to 6 cups of sugar and let sit in the refrigerator overnight. I stirred the peaches every once in a while to make sure the sugar completely dissolved.
Reaching the Right Temperature for Peach Preserves
Cooking the preserves is the time-consuming element in this recipe. An important part of the process is to cook them over a lower heat to begin. Start with the peach/sugar mixture in a large Dutch oven and add ½ cup of lemon juice. A wide, thick, heavy bottom pan works best as to not burn the peaches while you're cooking them. Over medium heat cook for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the maraschino cherries and turn the heat to medium-high, stirring constantly for about 10 minutes or until a candy thermometer reaches 218°-220° F. Also be extremely careful because once the mixture starts to thicken it will spit and splatter a bit. I have a few burn marks on my hands and forearms because I chose not to wear a kitchen mitten. You'd think I'd learn, but obviously not.
The Frozen Spoon Test
There's an interesting "spoon test" that I decided to experiment with after reading this post from Serious Eats. I put several spoons in my freezer while the peaches were on the stove. Once the mixture reached the 218° F temperature, I removed the pot from the burner as to not continue the cooking process. I took a frozen spoon out and dipped into the preserves. Laying the dollop filled spoon on a saucer, I put it back in the freezer to let it sit for 5 minutes. When I pulled the spoon back out and titled it, I watched for the preserves to hold their shape somewhat and not run off the spoon immediately. I had to try this "spoon test" a couple of times before it had the consistency that I was looking for. So I returned the pot to the burner. It had cooled down a bit, so I brought the temperature to 220° F and retested. Perfect. At this point, I added the whole pecans. I was ready to bring in my pint jars.
Sterilizing the Jars and Lids
Before I ever start with canning, I sterilize my jars in the dishwasher and pull them out when I'm ready to fill them. I also sterilize my lids by simmering them in a small pot of water while the preserves are cooking. Some canning instructions say this is unnecessary if you're going to boil the filled jars in the canner for more than 15 minutes. I didn't want to take any chances as this is the process that destroys bacteria which can cause food poisoning.
Filling the Jars
Ladle the hot preserves into the jars, leaving a headspace of about ½ inch. With a damp paper towel, clean the rim of the jars for any spilled preserves. This will provide a solid seal. Remove the lids one at a time from the simmering water, wipe with a dry paper towel and place it on the jar. Screw on the rings but not too tight. Twist with your fingers until you feel resistance. Make sure and use a kitchen mitten because the jars are extremely hot.
The Canning Process
While the preserves are cooking, fill a canner with water about halfway full and bring to a boil. At the same time have a reserve pot of boiling water to use in case you need more in the canner. Once the jars have been filled and the lids screwed on. Place the jars on the canner rack and lower into the boiling water. The water should be at least 2 inches above the jars. Boil for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, raise the rack, and let the jars sit above the water for about 5 minutes. Using a jar lifter, pull them from the canner and set them on a dishtowel.
Making Sure the Jars are Sealed
Then the popping begins. Literally, when the lids start to seal, you will hear them pop. But don't get paranoid if you don't hear them right away. Sometimes it takes a little bit of time and some are not as loud as others. To verify that the jars are sealed, press down on the lid and if it doesn't bounce back, you know it's done its job. If you find one that has not sealed properly, no big deal. That just means you get to enjoy the fruit of your labor immediately and what could possibly be wrong with that. Unsealed jars need to be refrigerated and eaten within 3 weeks.
Let the jars cool undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours.
Indulging in Homemade White Peach Preserves with Cherries and Pecans
Now it's time to indulge! You can't eat Homemade Peach Preserves without crusty bread and real butter. It's just sacrilegious. Well ... okay, truth be known, I've actually opened a jar, stood at the counter and ate half a pint with a spoon. I love the maraschino cherries and the pecans. They're the added bonus. In my opinion, that's what makes these jars so heavenly.
If you love peaches, you will love these recipes:
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Homemade Peach Preserves with Maraschino Cherries and Pecans
Crusty bread, real butter and a heaping spoonful of Homemade White Peach Preserves with Maraschino Cherries and Pecans. Not only does this taste scrumptious, but the jars themselves are a beautiful presentation for a homemade gift idea.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes (not including sitting overnight)
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
- Yield: 8 half-pint jars 1x
- Category: Fruit Preserves
- Method: Canning
- Cuisine: American
- 8 cups Freestone Peaches, peeled and cut in large chunks
- 6 cups White Sugar
- ½ cup Lemon Juice
- 1 ½ cups Maraschino Cherries, halved
- 1 ½ cups Pecans, whole
- In a large bowl combine the peaches and sugar and let sit overnight in the refrigerator. Stir every once in a while to make sure the sugar gets dissolved.
- Sterilize 8 half-pint size jars in the dishwasher before you begin cooking the preserves.
- Add peach mixture to a large heavy dutch oven along with the lemon juice and cook over medium heat for 35 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the cherries and turn the heat to medium-high. Cook for another 10 minutes or until the temperature reaches 218°F - 220°F, stirring constantly. See notes for testing if they are ready. Add the pecans.
- Fill a canner half full with water. Bring to a boil while you are waiting for the peaches to cook. At the same time have a reserve pot of boiling water to use in case you need more in the canner. Also, add about 3 inches a water to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the lids to the jar and let sit in the water until ready to use.
- Remove the jars from the dishwasher and fill each with the peach preserves leaving about ½ inch from the top. With a damp paper towel, wipe off the rims of the jars to remove any drippings from the preserves. Remove the lids from the simmering water and wipe off with a dry paper towel and place on each jar. Screw the rings on the jars but don't over-tighten.
- Place the jars on the metal rack of the canner. Lower the rack down into the boiling water making sure the water covers the jars by 2 inches. Boil for 20 minutes.
- Remove from the burner and draw up the metal rack. Let the jars sit above the water for about 5 minutes. Using a jar lifter, remove the jars to a towel-covered countertop. Let sit undisturbed for 12-24 hours.
- Testing the cooked peaches: Put several spoons in the freezer while the peaches are on the stove. Once the mixture reached the 218° F temperature, remove the pot from the burner as to not continue the cooking process. Take a frozen spoon out and dip into the preserves. Lay the dollop filled spoon on a saucer, put it back in the freezer to let it sit for 5 minutes. When you pull the spoon back out and tilt it, watch for the preserves to hold their shape somewhat and not run off the spoon immediately. You may need to try this "spoon test" a couple of times before it has the consistency that you are looking for. If so, return the pot to the burner. Bring the temperature back to 220° F and retest.
- Don't double the batch. First of all, it will overload your pot causing it to boil over and making a mess on your stove. Secondly, you will not be able to get it hot enough without scorching the preserves.
- Serving Size: 2 tablespoons
- Calories: 139
- Sugar: 27 g
- Sodium: 0 mg
- Fat: 2 g
- Saturated Fat: 0 g
- Unsaturated Fat: 2 g
- Trans Fat: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 31 g
- Fiber: 1 g
- Protein: 1 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
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