Back in the beginning days of our country, there was a gentleman’s club in Philadelphia where the men would imbibe Fish House Punch. Supposedly, they also hung out where no women could see, smoked cigars, and sometimes even went fishing. After a glass or two of their punch, they most likely were too drunk to do anything beyond napping. Punch recipe below.
I took the punch recipe, which does contain peach brandy, and make it into a yummy jam. Although the alcohol is evaporated when stirred into boiling jam, the rum makes it an adult jam. Use only dark rum in this for assertive rum flavor — I use Myers.
Pair this jam with cheese for a dessert or scones for brunch. Add it to a cheese puff pastry tartlet for an hors d’ouvre. My daughter suggests brushing pork chops or chicken.
Ripe peaches are too soft to hold up cooking to 220 degrees to jel and I want texture in my jam, so I use a commercial pectin in this jam.
Buy 3 or more pounds of the best peaches* you can find, freestone for sure. Let the peaches ripen a day or two until firm and fragrant for optimum flavor. If you have more than needed for the jam, make a small crumble for dessert or just snack. Ripe peaches are fleeting.
Fish House Peach Jam Recipe
Makes 7 half-pint jars, plus a little
• 4 ½ cups prepared peaches*
• juice of 1 lemon
• ½ tsp unsalted butter
• 5 ½ cups cane sugar
• 1 package SureJel
• ¼ cup dark rum, preferably Myers
1. Get out your jars, wash and check any used ones for a chip. Get out the equipment you’ll need for jam making. Jam pot, funnel, ladle, knives, measuring cups and bowls at the ready.
2. Measure out the sugar and the rum now as you won’t have time to measure when it’s needed. Open the box of SureJel and place the packet next to the stove. Have a timer ready that is accurate for just one minute, counting down the seconds. 1 minute on your microwave will work as a timer.
3. First, peel. Bring a 3-quart saucepot of water to a boil. With a sharp knife, cut a small, shallow X in the bottom of each peach, then dip each peach in the boiling water, count to 15 and remove to a bowl. When all the peaches are done, sit with a knife, a small “trash” bowl and a large bowl for cut fruit.
4. Set up your water bath with a rack in the bottom and bring to a boil. Dip all your jars, lids, the ladle and funnel in the boiling water to sterilize them. Set the jars on a clean towel or paper towels on the counter next to the stove.
5. Slip the skins from the peaches. If they were properly ripe the skin will just slide off. Cut the peaches into dice. I make little wedges about 1/8-inch by ¼-inch by the depth of the slice. The way I do this is to vertically slice about a quarter way around the peach then slice across horizontally. Keep the peach on the pit to help you hold it. Peeled peaches are slippery, so be careful! Measure 4 ½ cups of diced peaches. You can add just a bit of lemonade (1/4 cup) if the peaches seem too dry to cook without scorching.
6. Following the SureJel directions, put the peaches into your preserving pot, add the pectin, stir well and start the heat on medium low until the peaches juice out some then turn up the heat. Bring up to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. A full boil means that the mixture bubbles again immediately when you stir. At the full boil, dump in the sugar and stir, stir quickly until the sugar is completely dissolved. Bring back to a high boil that won’t stir down and boil for exactly one minute. Shut off the gas burner or pull the pot off an electric burner. Immediately stir in the rum, which should sizzle a bit. Keep stirring for 5 minutes to prevent floating fruit.
7. Quickly, ladle the jam into the jars, filling up to ¼ inch. Wipe the rims of any spills, and apply the 2 piece rims. Put the filled jars into the boiling water bath and process at a boil for 10 minutes. Remove the jars, do NOT retighten the lids, and listen for the ping as the jars seal.
If any jar does not seal, that’s the jar you put in the fridge and use first. Or, you must take off the lid, wipe the rim, replace with a new lid and re-process. Store your jam in a cool, dark place.
* Note: In early fall, you could decide to use nectarines like ‘Big Jim’ and skip the peeling.
Recipe for Actual Fish House Punch
The original recipe served at a Gentleman’s club in Philadelphia is basically just lemonade and tea with a very big kick of rum, cognac, and peach brandy, about half booze. Very potent, drunk-making stuff.
• 1 cup sugar
• 4 large lemons, juice and peels
• 4 cups cold brewed tea
• 4 cups gold rum
• 2 cups cognac
• ½ cup peach brandy
• a big block of ice frozen hard. So as not to dilute the punch.
1. Peel the lemons with a potato peeler. Reserve the lemons. Add the strips to the cup of sugar in a jar and let rest overnight. Then juice the lemons into the punch bowl, add the sugar, stir, and then the rest of the ingredients. Stir well until the sugar is dissolved.
2. Add the ice and garnish with the strips of lemon peel.
Just a thought: If you have a surplus of good jam, consider dropping it off at your local fire station. The firefighters are at the station in 24 hour shifts and prepare their meals there if they’re not fighting fires.
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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