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Frustrating Peach Jam - help!

piedsdesanges Sep 24, 2007 08:09 AM

Have you ever made peach jam? I keep ending up with a jam that is deeply caramel, which obscures the peach flavour and color. Any hints, insights, advice or better recipes?


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  1. w
    wawajb RE: piedsdesanges Sep 24, 2007 10:42 AM

    Speaking as a total jam-rookie (planning on making 4th batch ever tonight)...it sounds like you are seriously overcooking the jam.

    I'm sure the experts can give you much more detailed advice if they had more info...what recipe are you using, what is your procedure like, etc.

    1. m
      maisonbistro RE: piedsdesanges Sep 24, 2007 11:04 AM

      Are you following a recipe? Are you cooking the jam over too high heat?? I really really like the simple recipes that come in the boxes of pectin. They are simple and have never steered me wrong - but you need to stir stir stir - the sugar content is so high, just a few seconds of sticking will start to caramelize the sugar.

      The only thing I hated about making peach jam was peeling the peaches and pitting them - slippery slippery work.

      4 Replies
      1. re: maisonbistro
        piedsdesanges RE: maisonbistro Sep 24, 2007 11:49 AM

        I know! My hands were killing me from clenching the knife to peel it. I'm posting a picture here - what do you all think about the color? Once it cooled the flavor was pretty peachy. The first one was definitely overcooked.

        I'm finding that even when I use the wrinkle test it, the jam is overcooked.

        1. re: piedsdesanges
          MsMaryMc RE: piedsdesanges Sep 24, 2007 10:02 PM

          If you blanch the peaches in boiling water 30-60 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon and drop them ice water, the peel just slides off--no knife needed.

          1. re: MsMaryMc
            maisonbistro RE: MsMaryMc Sep 25, 2007 07:00 AM

            I always blanched them first, but still had to struggle with skins- if only because it gets very slippery - and then cutting the pit out - love the end result, not so much the road to get there.

            1. re: maisonbistro
              WildSwede RE: maisonbistro Sep 25, 2007 12:32 PM

              I do the same as MsMary but when it comes to cutting them, I just palm them in my hand. Or, maybe you can put a towel down to keep them from flying all over the place!

      2. n
        Nyleve RE: piedsdesanges Sep 24, 2007 05:33 PM

        When I make peach jam, I use powdered "light" pectin (lower sugar) and cook it exactly according to the instructions. You only boil the mixture for one minute, which really isn't enough time to get dark and caramelized. It stays light and the flavour is very fresh. When the cooking time is up it may not look done but it is. So don't over cook and don't worry. It should work perfectly every time. (I've tried the freezer jam method also, but don't like it with peaches. Strawberries, yes. Peaches, no.)

        4 Replies
        1. re: Nyleve
          piedsdesanges RE: Nyleve Sep 24, 2007 07:53 PM

          You know I don't know where I got my mental block against pectin but it is obviously silly and unreasonable. I'll take your advice on my next batch.

          1. re: piedsdesanges
            Nyleve RE: piedsdesanges Sep 25, 2007 07:16 AM

            I realize that purists will avoid using packaged pectin because it seems like a newfangled shortcut and, therefore, somehow wrong. I also realize that if you are looking for the taste of a traditional, long-cooked jam - it's a sort of deeply caramelized flavour in most fruits - you will not be happy with quickly cooked jams made with added pectin. However, I mostly prefer jam to have a bright, fresh fruit taste - and I appreciate the ease of making jam quickly.

            Fresh fruit, being a product of the whims of nature, is not all equal in pectin content. Not even within the same type of fruit - they will differ with freshness, time of picking, ripeness level, and species of tree. So it's more an art than a science. Adding pectin - which, incidentally, is a natural product mostly made from citrus peels (correct me if I'm wrong, please) - allows you to boil a jam to spreadable thickness without any guesswork. Sometimes I admit it gets too thick (which I don't like) and occasionally refuses to thicken at all despite the pectin. But that's the way it goes. If it's too thick, I use it in baking; too thin and I spoon it into yogurt or over ice cream. Whatever.

            1. re: Nyleve
              MsMaryMc RE: Nyleve Sep 25, 2007 10:38 AM

              I just discovered Pomona's Universal Pectin, which allows for using less (or even no) sugar and doesn't require long cooking. I made some lovely low-sugar preserves from Santa Rosa plums that actually tastes like plum, and not just sugar. I'm done with canning peaches for the year, but I'm definitely going to try it with peaches next year.


              1. re: MsMaryMc
                chef chicklet RE: MsMaryMc Sep 25, 2007 10:49 AM

                i've made that jam, it is the most beautiful color! Totally ruined my kids for store bought, no way!

        2. c
          cheapertrick RE: piedsdesanges Sep 24, 2007 08:49 PM

          I make peach preserves every year and have never used pectin.

          The keys to my preserves are using a candy thermometer. I slowly (at least 35 minutes) bring it up to 220 degrees. This takes a little work to control your heat.

          I always use very fresh peaches since fresher fruit is higher in pectin than riper fruit.

          Finally I add a bit of fresh lemon juice at the end when I reach temperature. Acid will help the pectin set but should not be added until the end or overcooking will ruin its potential as solidifying agent. The acid also brings out the peach flavor without noticably changing the flavor.

          These are the basic techniques I use for almost all my jams, preserves, and jellies and I never have problems or the need for added pectin.

          1 Reply
          1. re: cheapertrick
            willowgirl RE: cheapertrick Sep 12, 2010 11:46 AM

            Do you not peel your peaches? Do you add sugar?
            I want to just use the peach and nothing else ...

          2. toodie jane RE: piedsdesanges Sep 25, 2007 10:01 AM

            The peach is one fresh fruit that I don't think translates well in the context of jams and preserves which necessitate intense heat and much sugar for jelling.

            I made a standard fruit/pectin/sugar batch with homegrown fresh ripe peaches and concluded that they would have been better preserved by freezing for later use. The delicate flowery flavor just can't take the prolonged heat.

            Save your peaches for other uses.

            1. chef chicklet RE: piedsdesanges Sep 25, 2007 10:19 AM

              I made white peach jam every year for the past 4 years. Never had a darkening problem. As others have mentioned, could it be you're cooking too long at too high, yes. Also don't forget to add a bit of lemon juice. I add it to all my jams. I recently made fig jam and it too got darker than last time, since it wouldn't thicken up I cooked it longer and at higher heat. And I forgot to add the acid. I think in my case that's what happened. Still taste good, just not happy with the color either.

              1. p
                piedsdesanges RE: piedsdesanges Sep 27, 2007 08:17 AM

                Thanks everyone! I'm going to look up Pomona Pectin. I actually thought of another use for overcooked jam: fruit cheese at a cheese course. I overdid one batch of plum jam this summer and I served it yesterday with bresaola and rommano predera. Holy cow!

                It's on my blog.

                1 Reply
                1. re: piedsdesanges
                  bigjimbray RE: piedsdesanges Sep 27, 2007 11:51 AM

                  I use to have three peach tree`s in my back yard, but I sold that place. any way I make
                  my recipe of peach jam, this way. I take 5-6 nice size peaches, wash them real good.
                  I don`t peel them, just slice them and put them in a blender. place them in a stock pot, with pectin and lemon juice. cook to a rolling boil, add sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. add a can of crushed pineapple drained, and about 15 sliced maraschino
                  cherries, and keep stirring to you come back to a rolling boil. then pour into your jars.
                  and I have always had good fortune by using pectin. and the peach jam has always
                  came out nice color. with or without the added pineapple or cherries.

                2. c
                  chowmel RE: piedsdesanges Sep 12, 2010 04:28 PM

                  There is a method used by Christine Ferber (look up her book, Mes Confitures, its great). She mixes the fruit with sugar (less than you would use when you use pectin) and lets it sit over night. Then she drains the fruit and cooks the juice to the set point. The fruit is added back in and cooked about 5 min more. This is a fresher tasting jam you might like.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: chowmel
                    toodie jane RE: chowmel Sep 19, 2010 08:50 PM

                    what a good idea!

                    1. re: chowmel
                      GiGiofRVA RE: chowmel Aug 14, 2011 09:55 PM

                      Yes, do try her method. I made some peach jam from her book, Mes Confitures, and it works. I used 4 cups of peaches, and 2 cups of sugar. Add lemon juice, cook 5 minutes and let sit in a ceramic bowl overnight in fridge. Next day, drain off and collect the juice and boil it until it gets thick. Add fruit and can. I wasn't all hung up on the jelling part, and she says you must use high sugar to get it to jell. I didn't want that much sugar, but it's a good consistency for me. I didn't really can it. I just put in fridge to use. Love it in the morning on toast. Good clean taste, good color. Making more this week.

                      1. re: chowmel
                        chef chicklet RE: chowmel Aug 15, 2011 12:07 AM

                        This is the best way to make jam or work with peaches. The peaches will leach their sugar as they sit and they just turn our better. I use a little fresh lemon juice, and keep it at 180, use a water bath. don't double the recipe, make it in batches otherwise it won't work.

                      2. m
                        morwen RE: piedsdesanges Sep 27, 2010 04:54 PM

                        Eugenia Bone shared Jacques Pepin's jam technique on her blog
                        ( http://blogs.denverpost.com/preserved/ ) the other day:

                        "...to make his jam he places the fruit on a cookie tray with 50% of the weight of the fruit in sugar and bakes it on the lowest setting of his oven for a few hours, then cans the fruit. What a fantastic technique! Aren’t we all always trying to find ways to use less sugar in our jams?

                        I had about five medium sized peaches from my dad’s tree in the fridge, so I tried it. I peeled and sliced the peaches—there was about 4 cups—and placed them on a cookie tray. I dumped a scant 2 cups of sugar on top and baked for 2 1/4 hours at 225 ˚.

                        Once or twice I flipped the peaches around with a spatula. They came out much reduced, glistening and rather withered looking. I stuffed them in a half pint jar—I had about a quarter pint left over which I put in the fridge–and processed the jar for 20 minutes at sea level. (I used this time based on USDA recommendations for hot pack sliced peaches.


                        This morning I smeared some of the peach slices on toast. Wow! What a mighty fruit flavor, not too sweet, and very tangy. It was rather, well, French."

                        I haven't tried this yet but there are still some late peaches showing up at the market. I've made peach everything else but not jam. This weekend's project.

                        1. j
                          jindomommy RE: piedsdesanges Sep 27, 2010 10:10 PM

                          If you are boiling down the peaches with no pectic, then it's just the caramelization. Personally, I like that flavor. I think a lot of people have come to think of the commercial jarred version as the standard and it really shouldn't be.

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