Rather than use commercial pectin, such as Sure-jel or Certo for making thick preserves and jams, I like to use the old-fashioned methods that use far less sugar.
A commercial pectin recipe for this preserve calls for 4 cups of fruit to 7 cups sugar. I use about ¼ of that: at least twice as much fruit and half the sugar, so my jams and preserves taste of the fruit instead of sugar and have half or less calories.
As well as the usual breakfast toast spread, try adding your own homemade preserves to plain yogurt. I promise, it tastes better and is better for you.
Nectarine Preserves Recipe
Yields 7 half-pints
• 4 pounds ripe nectarines
• 4 cups cane sugar
• zest of 1 large orange
• 2 tsp ginger puree*
Note: Ginger puree is so handy to have on hand and so much tastier and easier to stir in than the dry powdered stuff. Watch for fresh, silky-skinned ginger and buy a big piece. Roughly peel it and slice into ½-inch pieces. Toss those into the mini-prep processor, add about 2 Tbsp cane sugar to 1 cup of ginger chunks and process to a paste.
The sugar keeps it from freezing too hard. Keep this in a jar in the freezer to add to preserves like this one, pickling syrup and even stir fry. And, yes, gingerbread! There’s not enough sugar to make any difference to flavor.
Nectarines are one of my favorite fruits to preserve! No peeling!
1. Wash the nectarines and cut them up. I run my knife around the middle, the “equator” if you will. Then, cut slices a scant ½-inch wide that fall into two pieces, because you’ve already halved them with your first cut. Put all the nectarines into your jam pot.
2. I like to use a zester so I get tiny shreds of peel, but you can also use the finest holes of a grater. Zest the whole orange right on top of the nectarine pieces. Then, add 2 tsp of ginger puree.
3. Now, add the 4 cups of sugar and give it a stir, mixing the sugar into the fruit. Walk away for a half hour or so and when you come back, the nectarines will be juicing out enough that the sugar looks wet. Turn on the heat under your jam pot and stir in using a folding motion while gently heating so the sugar is melting and your fruit is submerged in juice.
4. Bring the preserve just to a boil, stirring, turn off the heat and cover the pot. Let the preserve rest overnight to develop flavor and completely juice out.
5. In the morning, you’ll see that your preserve is much more syrupy. Turn the heat back on and, stirring from time to time, bring slowly back to a boil. Set a jelly/candy thermometer in the pot.
6. Set up your water bath canner and set out your impeccably clean jars. Be sure you have the rack in the bottom of the kettle. Bring the water to a boil. When almost ready to fill the jars, dip each jar and lid into the boiling water and set upside down on a fresh sheet of paper towel. Dip the ladle and canning funnel, too.
7. Stirring frequently, being sure to stir the entire bottom of your jam pot, cook the preserve to 220 degrees Fahrenheit. It will be quite thick and glossy, most of the nectarine slices will be looking transparent, nearly glaceed. Turn off the burner (on an electric stove, you’ll move your pot off the burner).
8. Fill your jars to within ¼ inch of the top, wipe the rims if necessary, and seal with 2-part lids. Process your preserve for 10 minutes in the water bath, then remove immediately to cool on a towel. Leave some space between the jars so that they cool quickly. Listen for that pretty “ping” as the jars seal.
Wendy Akin is a happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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