So, I decided to make something edible for this week's project that COULD be made in advance. The answer?
HOME MADE JAM!
This, my friends, is Peach and Vanilla Bean Jam!
Oh my word. I was so excited when I stumbled upon the recipe for this amazing jam here and here. The ingredients are so simple- peaches, vanilla beans, sugar and a little lemon juice!
The more complicated part of the process- for me at least- was the idea of CANNING this jam. I learned a lot about canning through some internet research and through making this jam myself. I am in NO way an expert, but I'll share what I've been reading to give you some tips at the end of the post! Don't be scared of canning!
So first things first, here is the more specific list of ingredients needed:
3 lbs. ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped
3½ cups sugar
1-2 vanilla bean(s), halved lengthwise, seeds scraped out
Juice of 1 lemon
I decided that instead of fresh peaches (I don't even think they're in season right now), I would use thawed frozen peaches. Frozen peaches are just as good as the real deal and are already peeled and pitted. Can't beat that. Also, due to my laziness, I decided not to "coarsley chop" my peaches, but instead to throw them in my food processor. If you choose to use a processor, be careful not to over-process it and turn it into peach puree! You want to have medium size pieces of peaches still intact (see below). You could obviously still hand chop them if you don't have a processor.
Next, I put all of the ingredients into my medium sized stock pot. You will want to put it both the vanilla bean seeds AND the pods. Just don't forget to take the pods out before canning your jam.
The seeds from two vanilla beans go a very long way! SEE?
Click on the picture and look closely! There are a ton of seeds!
(* A note on vanilla beans: Don't buy them from the baking/cake mix/spices aisle. I found them there for $9/ PER VANILLA BEAN! Yikes! Instead, you can usually find them in the produce section by the dried fruits and spices- I've found them at Schnuck's and Dierbergs- for about $3-5 per bean. It still seems expensive, but like I said a little goes a long way.)
After it has simmered for 1.5 hours or so, the mixture should be all carmelized (browned) and delicious looking. Take a little sample of it out of the pot and put on a cool plate to see if it "gels" when cooled. If it does, its ready to can!
- Before filling your jars with jam, sterilize them (and the lids and rings) by putting them in the oven at around 175 degrees F for about 25 minutes ( Ina Garten- Barefoot Contessa )
- After filling and sealing the sterilized jars, put the jars in a large stockpot with boiling water (1-2 inches of water covering the jars) for 5-10 mins ( Pick Your Own )
- Now, CAREFULLY take the jars out of the water and put them on a towel or heat proof surface to cool. Place them on the towel for 15mins upside down, but after 15mins turn them right side up again. Leave them to cool overnight. The lids should make a popping noise (but not necessarily) to signify that they have been sealed probably ("My Sister's Kitchen" )
P.S. Is the recipient of your gift not into sweets or jams? My friend KellyBeth has a really awesome blog, Life at the Polish Palace and a while back she had a post about making and canning your own salsa.
You should definitely read her post here:
SALSA! Life at the Polish Palace
I really hope my jars end up sealing properly- since I've never done it before, I'm a little nervous. But what I CAN say with absolute certainty is that this jam smells and tastes SO GOOD and I think anyone would be happy to get it as a gift! I love it. I hope that you will give canning a try this week too!