This is as close to summer in a jar as it gets. The rosy-skinned nectarines from our local orchard have been so amazing that we wish they’d last forever. Turning a few into jam is definitely the answer. For some time, I’ve been thinking about making nectarine jam with herbs and spices, inspired by Tigress’s savory and white pepper version of a few years ago. Last year, I added peppery heat to strawberries with great results. This year, figs won the chipotle. I decided that one of that type of jam per season would be enough. I then thought about adding vanilla to the nectarines, but I’ve added it to apricots and rhubarb already (both awesome). Okay, how about something novel: make it straight up, pure. Nectarines and sugar and lemon, that’s it. Oh yes, it was perfect.
As much as I love the layering of flavors, the complexity of a multi-ingredient dish, I associate summer with the simplest of simples: a single vegetable or fruit, maybe adorned with one other ingredient, or maybe two. Save chutney for the winter. This jam proves the point.
I’m adding a few notes about process in the recipe since the canner and jammers of this world know what to do but maybe that’s not common knowledge.
Generous 2 lb rosy nectarines
Scant 1 lb granulated sugar (just under 2 c)
Juice of one large lemon or more (about ¼ c), seeds reserved
Wash and pit the nectarines and cut them into large chunks. I halved the fruit vertically along its “seam” and removed the pit. I then cut each piece in half crosswise and in fourths vertically.
Combine the fruit with sugar and lemon. Place the seeds in a small muslin sack or tie them in a piece of cheesecloth and submerge them in the fruit. Place a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper on top (to prevent oxidation) and let the fruit macerate for about 6 hours, stirring occasionally to make sure that the sugar is dissolving, or place it in the refrigerator overnight, stirring it well before making the jam.
Prepare the jars for water bath canning. (Place clean jars in a canning kettle full of water, cover the kettle and bring the water to a full rolling boil for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit while you make the jam.) Place a saucer in the freezer for testing the gel.
Place the nectarine mixture in a wide heavy-bottomed pan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, lower the heat to let it bubble for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pan. When the jam is thick and cost the back of a spoon, test it for gel by placing a drop onto the frozen saucer. If touching it with your finger produces a wrinkled result, the gel is set.
Ladle into hot jars and process in the water bath canner for 10 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Turn off the heat, remove the lid and let sit for 5 minutes before removing to a counter to cool undisturbed.
Makes 4 half-pint jars or 8 four-ounce jars.