So I had adjusted to the fact that summer has left us. No, really I had, until … I walked into my supermarket and saw the last of the nectarines. Sigh. In my opinion, there are few things more delicious than a ripe, juicy, in-season, nectarine. And these are it – the last of them. What’s a girl to do? Yup, I bought a ton. In fact, I bought too many. Even I couldn’t eat them all, so I decided to put up a small batch of jam before they went bad.
Once I made that decision, I had a few more to make. Skin or no skin? I’m firmly in the “leave the skin on” camp for two reasons. First, I’m lazy. Second, I like the texture of the skin after it’s been cooked down in the jam. Chunky or smooth? I went with chunky, but you could easily make it smoother by chopping the nectarines more finely or even whirring them around in the food processor a bit before combining with the sugar. Lastly, do I want to add some other flavors? Looking around the garden, I saw some lemon verbena that looked like a good idea. Feel free to omit it if you don’t have any or you don’t like it. I also love a bit of vanilla in my jams – I think it helps temper the slightly sour edge some fruits have, even when sweetened with sugar. It doesn’t make things too sweet, it just rounds them out.
On a final note, this recipe makes about 6 cups of jam, enough to have a nice jar in your fridge and either give some to friends right away (refrigerate it) or can the rest. I processed mine in half-pint canning jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes, and then let them cool in the bath for a couple of minutes more before taking them out and letting them cool down and seal completely. If you’re interested in canning, there are many sites with specific information about safe canning on the web (such as Ball canning jar’s site and and the University of Georgia’s cooperative extension’s site). Take a look around for information about safe canning procedures and any equipment you may need.
CHUNKY NECTARINE JAM
- 3 ½ pounds nectarines TIP: Don’t use overripe fruit for making jam – it has lower pectin content, making it more difficult to reach the jam stage. In fact, it’s even better if a bit of the fruit is underripe.
- 3 cups sugar (I used plain old granulated, white, sugar)
- 1 vanilla bean, split
- 3 large sprigs of lemon verbena
- Juice of one half lemon
Prepare The Fruit
- Pit and slice the nectarines.
- Place the fruit in a non-reactive bowl and add the sugar.
- Stir and put in the fridge overnight (or for few hours) to macerate.
Make The Jam
- Place a glass dish in the freezer (you’ll use this later to test the jam).
- When the fruit’s macerated, put the mixture in a large, heavy pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- Reduce the heat and skim off any foam that’s accumulated on the top, then add the vanilla bean, lemon verbena and lemon juice.
- Simmer on a low heat, stirring frequently, until it begins to thicken. When it starts to thicken, remove the vanilla bean (gently rinse it off and save it to make vanilla sugar) and, if you like, the lemon verbena.
- Keep simmering the fruit until it’s jammy. You can tell you getting close by lifting the stirring spoon out of the fruit and seeing how it falls off the spoon. If it’s liquid and drippy, you’re not there yet. If it has started to thicken up, and drops off in larger “flakes” you’re there.
- When you think it looks like jam, it’s time to test it. Take the glass plate out of the freezer and plop a teaspoonful of the jam on the plate. Put it back in the freezer for a half a minute. Take out the plate and tilt it. Did the jam run down the plate like a liquid? If yes, keep simmering. If the spoonful seemed to solidify, you can draw a line through it and it didn’t run right back together, or it just plain looks like jam, you’re probably done.
- If you’re done, put the jam into clean jars and either can or refrigerate them.
TIP : Don’t even try to clean the pot in which you cooked the jam with cold water – you’ll have a sticky and annoying mess on your hands. That stuff’s only coming off with hot water. A few minutes hot soak and the jam should clean right off. If you hot water canned your jam, you can use that water to soak the pot after you’re done canning.
Yield: About 6 cups.