(or buy them already picked) It's fun to go pick your own and you can obviously get better quality ones! (Damsons are shown in the photo at left) Step 2 - How much fruit? It takes about 5 to 6 cups of peach peelings, which takes at least several dozen peaches to get this many peelings. It does require a LOT of peelings, as they cook down!
I'm sure you can figure out how to wash the fruit in a colander of plain cold water. Then you need to pick out and remove any bits of stems, leaves and soft or mushy fruit. It is easiest to do this in a large bowl of water and gently run your hands through the fruit as they float. With your fingers slightly apart, you will easily feel any soft or mushy fruit get caught in your fingers. Peaches and nectarines should be peeled, as their skins can be tough / chewy in jam. Peaches have such thin skins, you really don't need to peel them. For those you want to peel, here's a great trick that works with many fruits and vegetables with skins (like tomatoes): just dip the fruit in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds.
Remove from the water using a slotted spoon and put into a large bowl or pot of cold water and ice. The skins will easily slide off now IF the peaches are ripe! The more unripe they are, the longer you'll need to heat them. You can now eat the peaches, or can them or make peach jam, etc. Save all washed, sound pieces and peelings from the peaches. (if you are peeling the peaches in advance, keep the peelings refrigerated until ready to use). I mentioned in the ingredients section that you can use canned peach juice. The peelings add a lot of solid particulates which help the "honey" to thicken. Now's a good time to get the jars ready, so you won't be rushed later. The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a "sanitize" cycle, the water bath processing will sanitize them as well as the contents! If you don't have a dishwasher with a sanitize cycle, you can wash the containers in hot, soapy water and rinse, then sanitize the jars by boiling them 10 minutes, and keep the jars in hot water until they are used. Canning jars in the dishwasher NOTE: If a canning recipe calls for 10 minutes or more of process time in the canner, then the jars do not need to be "sanitized" before filling them. But really, sanitizing them first is just good hygeine and common sense! See this page for more detail about cleaning and sanitizing jars and lids. Put the lids into a pan of hot, but not quite boiling water (that's what the manufacturer's recommend) for 10 minutes, and use the magnetic "lid lifter wand" to pull them out. Leave the jars in the dishwasher on "heated dry" until you are ready to use them. Keeping them hot will prevent the jars from breaking when you fill them with the hot jam. Lids: put the very hot (but not quite boiling; around 180 F, steaming water is fine) water for at least several minutes; to soften up the gummed surface and clean the lids. I just leave them in there, with the heat on very low, until I need them! Get them all here, delivered direct to your home, at the best prices on the internet! Place the juice in the saucepan and heat over medium to high heat. When it boils vigorously, add the sugar at the rate of one-half as much sugar as juice. Boil it down rapidly until it achieves the consistency of honey. If it doesn't thicken, you can mix 1/3 of a packet of pectin with 1/3 cup of sugar and mix it in. Or you can cook it down in a Crockpot overnight, on low! Step 8 - Fill the jars and put the lid and rings on.
Fill them to within 1/4-inch of the top, wipe any spilled jam off the top, seat the lid and tighten the ring around them. This is where the jar tongs and lid lifter come in really handy! Step 9 - Process the jars in the boiling water bath. Keep the jars covered with at least 2 inches of water. I say "in general" because you have to process (boil) them longer at higher altitudes than sea level, or if you use larger jars, or if you did not sanitize the jars and lids right before using them. The directions inside every box of pectin will tell you exactly. The directions on the pectin tend to be pretty conservative. Clemson University says you only need to process them for 5 minutes. I usually hedge my bets and start pulling them out after 7 minutes, and the last jars were probably in for 10. Note: Some people don't even boil the jars; they just ladle it hot into hot jars, put the lids and rings on and invert them, but putting the jars in the boiling water bath REALLY helps to reduce spoilage!
To me, it makes little sense to put all the working into making the jam and then not to process the jars to be sure they don't spoil! Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight) You can then remove the rings if you like, but if you leave them on, at least loosen them quite a bit, so they don't rust in place due to trapped moisture. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger.