Perfect Peach Marmalade Recipe

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Peach Marmalade
Peach Marmalade

For as long as I can remember, peach marmalade has been part of our family’s pantry of preserves.  As a small child, I remember the yearly ritual of my great grandmother (who we always knew as “Gram”) making peach marmalade.  And a ritual it was.

Ontario Peaches
Peaches

The Ontario baskets of peaches were highly anticipated each August and we would pick up a basket for Gram, carefully inspecting each peach to ensure it was free of blemishes (lest we hear about it) and ensuring we had one of the large baskets with just the right amount of peaches in it. We would hunt down the best orange we could find (it had to be juicy and, at that time, that was hard to find in August when oranges were out of season), and a small bottle of red maraschino cherries.  We would ensure Gram had all the supplies and she would carefully and tediously get the pulp prepared for the revered peach marmalade.  Then, the following day, she and my grandmother would spend the day together making this special marmalade, slowly cooking and gently stirring it over the wood stove. I think my great grandmother savored every minute of its production as much, I suspect, as eating the actual marmalade.

Peach Marmalade
Peach Marmalade

You see, in my great grandmother’s day (she was born in 1883), peach marmalade was considered a luxury and was not the type of preserve that just anyone in our area made.  My ancestors of the day would have been familiar with strawberry, raspberry,  blackberry, black currant, and pumpkin jams but that would have been about the extent of the repertoire of preserving. These would have been items that would have been grown locally on their farms or, in the case of raspberries and blackberries, probably along the roadsides near their homes.

Peaches
Peaches

Where my great grandmother got the recipe for peach marmalade, I have no idea but my best guess is probably in the local newspaper.  This marmalade would have been cooked on an old wood stove and I always marvel at how the cooks of the day were able to produce what they did because the heat was not easy to control. Today, when I think of myself in comparison to my great grandmother, I have a completely computerized stove that produces consistent and accurate heat all the time.

Peach Marmalade
Peach Marmalade

The recipe I use today is a modified version of my great grandmother’s which was passed down to me with the list of three ingredients (peaches, oranges, and maraschino cherries) and a method that was somewhat vague on the details. The batch that my great grandmother made was more than three times the size of the one I make. Here’s how the instructions read: “Over the peaches and oranges, put white sugar. Let stand overnight. In the morning, add a bottle of maraschino cherries cup up. Also add the juice and boil slowly on back of stove until thick. Then bottle.” If you weren’t someone who had some experience making jams and marmalades, this would not have been much to go on. For example, how much sugar? Those with experience will know that, as a general rules of thumb and in the absence of any information to the contrary, it is typically, cup for cup, sugar-to-fruit pulp but, for an inexperienced cook, I suspect most would not have a clue about the amount of sugar needed for a successful batch of the marmalade.

Over the years, I have adapted this recipe and certainly cut it down in size as I don’t need the amount of jam that 24 peaches would make! I also don’t let the peaches sit overnight in the sugar because I don’t think it is necessary and I think it would discolor the peaches. I also add a bit of lemon to my marmalade, have defined how many cherries are needed, and have omitted the cherry juice because I think it discolors the wonderful peach color of the marmalade. The other ingredient I have added is Peach Schnapps.  My teetotaler great grandmother would be horrified as I can confidently state she would not have had such a liqueur in her house! Anyhoo…….

Peach Marmalade
Peach Marmalade

I am not sure how my great grandmother, a widow living alone by this time, would have eaten up this much peach marmalade but a new batch was made annually. Whether she ate it with homemade bread toasted over her wood stove or whether she served it in a small custard dish with biscuits for a light tea/supper, I am not certain. All I know is that, up until the time she died at the age of 99, the peach marmalade was made every year. After she was no longer able to participate in its production, my grandmother made it on her own so my great grandmother would continue to enjoy it. After my great grandmother passed away, however, my grandmother did not continue the annual tradition of making the peach marmalade.

Peach Marmalade
Peach Marmalade

I can’t say that making peach marmalade is an annual tradition with me.  I do, however, make it many years and I always think of my two grandmothers and their tradition with this marmalade.

Peach Marmalade
Peach Marmalade

Making this marmalade will take a little time as it has to simmer on the stove for about an hour or so. Don’t overcook it (it does not need 2 hours of cooking like my great-grandmother’s instructions said) as it will become too thick and lose its spreading quality and wonderful color (it will become very dark). The marmalade can be made without the Peach Schnapps, of course. The liqueur, however, does deepen the peach flavor a bit. Don’t go overboard on the liqueur as it not only will be too intense but the liquid content will alter the consistency of the marmalade. If you choose not to include the liqueur, you may wish to add a half teaspoon of almond extract, although that is not mandatory either.

Ensure the jars are sterilized before filling with the marmalade. Leave about 1/4″ headroom in each jar. Ensure they are properly sealed with heated lids. I recommend that the jars be processed in a canner with a hot water bath for 10 minutes, following the canner manufacturer’s instructions.

Peach Marmalade
Peach Marmalade

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Peach Marmalade

Ingredients:

7 large peaches, washed
Zest of orange
1 medium-sized orange, seeded and chopped into small pieces
Zest of ½ lemon
½ medium-sized lemon, seeded and chopped into small pieces
1/3 cup maraschino cherries, finely chopped
1½ tbsp Peach Schnapps (optional) or ½ tsp almond flavoring
Granulated sugar equal to amount of fruit pulp

Method:

Plunge peaches in boiling water for about 1 minute to loosen skin.  Peel.  Halve the peaches and remove and discard stones. Dice the peaches into small pieces, about ½“ in size.  Add the chopped orange and lemon along with the orange and lemon zest.  Measure the amount of the peach pulp, orange, and lemon.   Add an equal amount of sugar.  For example, if the total amount of the pulp equals 4 cups, add 4 cups of sugar.

Place 2-3 freezer-safe saucers in freezer.

Place pulp and sugar into a medium-sized stockpot.  Stir. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching.  Reduce heat and simmer until mixture thickens and peaches are translucent, stirring occasionally. This could take about an hour, a little more or less*.  To test for doneness, place a small amount of marmalade on chilled saucer and swirl saucer around. Let marmalade sit, untouched, for about a minute, then gently push your finger through the marmalade.  If the marmalade holds its shape (i.e., does not run back together after the finger has been removed from the marmalade), it is set and ready to bottle.  If not, continue to cook mixture, repeating the “chill” test about every 3 minutes or so (always removing the pot from the heat while conducting the chill test) until the marmalade passes the “chill” test.  Do not overcook as it will result in a very thick marmalade, dark in color.

Remove pot from heat and skim off any foam that may still remain on the marmalade. Stir in cherries and Peach Schnapps (or almond flavoring).  Using a canning funnel, pour marmalade into sterilized jars, leaving about ¼” headroom in each jar.  Wipe the jar rims with a clean cloth. Seal jars with heated lids and fingertip-tightened ring bands. Process in boiling water canner, following canner manufacturer’s directions, for 10 minutes. Remove jars from hot water to cooling rack. Listen for the “pop” or “ping” sound as the bottles seal over the next few hours. The lids of properly sealed jars will curve downward. Refrigerate any jars that do not have lids curved downward and use within 1 month.

Yield:  Apx. 5 half-pints

*Note that it is difficult to give a precise cooking time for the marmalade since various factors, including the pectin level of the fruit and heat level of stove, can vary significantly and may affect cooking and marmalade-setting times. This is why the “chill” test is the recommended method for determining marmalade setting. It is recommended that the first “chill” test be conducted somewhere around the 45-50 minute point in the cooking process.  It does not necessarily mean that the marmalade will be done in that timeframe and more than one “chill” test may need to be performed.

 

Delicious Peach Marmalade made with fresh peaches, orange, lemon, cherries, and a splash of Peach Schnapps

Peach Marmalade

Peach Marmalade

Yield: Apx. 5 half pints

Delicious peach marmalade made with fresh peaches, orange, lemon, maraschino cherries, and a splash of Peach Schnapps. Serve on toast, biscuits, or dolloped onto vanilla custard for a tasty dessert.

Ingredients

  • 7 large peaches, washed
  • Zest of orange
  • 1 medium-sized orange, seeded and chopped into small pieces
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • ½ medium-sized lemon, seeded and chopped into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup maraschino cherries, finely chopped
  • 1½ tbsp Peach Schnapps (optional) or ½ tsp almond flavoring
  • Granulated sugar equal to amount of fruit pulp

Instructions

  1. Plunge peaches in boiling water for about 1 minute to loosen skin. Peel. Halve the peaches and remove and discard stones. Dice the peaches into small pieces, about ½“ in size. Add the chopped orange and lemon along with the orange and lemon zest. Measure the amount of the peach pulp, orange, and lemon. Add an equal amount of sugar. For example, if the total amount of the pulp equals 4 cups, add 4 cups of sugar.
  2. Place 2-3 freezer-safe saucers in freezer.
  3. Place pulp and sugar into a medium-sized stockpot. Stir. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture thickens and peaches are translucent, stirring occasionally. This could take about an hour, a little more or less*. To test for doneness, place a small amount of marmalade on chilled saucer and swirl saucer around. Let marmalade sit, untouched, for about a minute, then gently push your finger through the marmalade. If the marmalade holds its shape (i.e., does not run back together after the finger has been removed from the marmalade), it is set and ready to bottle. If not, continue to cook mixture, repeating the “chill” test about every 3 minutes or so (always removing the pot from the heat while conducting the chill test) until the marmalade passes the “chill” test. Do not overcook as it will result in a very thick marmalade, dark in color.
  4. Remove pot from heat and skim off any foam that may still remain on the marmalade. Stir in cherries and Peach Schnapps (or almond flavoring). Using a canning funnel, pour marmalade into sterilized jars, leaving about ¼” headroom in each jar. Wipe the jar rims with a clean cloth. Seal jars with heated lids and fingertip-tightened ring bands. Process in boiling water canner, following canner manufacturer’s directions, for 10 minutes. Remove jars from hot water to cooling rack. Listen for the “pop” or “ping” sound as the bottles seal over the next few hours. The lids of properly sealed jars will curve downward. Refrigerate any jars that do not have lids curved downward and use within 1 month.
  5. Yield: Apx. 5 half-pints
  6. *Note that it is difficult to give a precise cooking time for the marmalade since various factors, including the pectin level of the fruit and heat level of stove, can vary significantly and may affect cooking and marmalade-setting times. This is why the “chill” test is the recommended method for determining marmalade setting. It is recommended that the first “chill” test be conducted somewhere around the 45-50 minute point in the cooking process. It does not necessarily mean that the marmalade will be done in that timeframe and more than one “chill” test may need to be performed.
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