My love affair with rose-scented geraniums started a few years ago. A friend offered trimmings from her herb garden while I was in the midst of canning peaches, resulting in a peach jam perfumed with a lovely aroma reminiscent of roses. Since then, I’ve been growing several varieties of pelargonium, as they’re properly called. My favorites are “Old Fashioned Rose” and “Lady Grey Plymouth.” They make wonderful potpourris to scent your linens (and probably drive away moths) but I also like them crushed in sugar, added to ice tea, and lightly flavoring jelly and jam.
This jam is an adaptation of “Fanny’s Peach Jam” from Catherine Plagemann’s Fine Preserving, a small volume on pickling and jam amusingly annotated by M.F.K Fischer. I’ve made this jam – featuring peaches, oranges and a lemon all ground up together – a couple of times, gradually improving it from the initial try. I thought it was a little flat so I added a pinch of salt and a whole lemon instead of a half at the beginning and a squeeze of lemon just before jarring it. I also diminished the sugar and, in this case, added a nectarine for its rosy color. Remembering the “Peach Marmalade,” also from Plagemann, that started me using rose geranium, I added a few leaves to the cooking jam and a small leaf to each jar.
Peach and Citrus “Marmalade” with Rose Geranium, adapted from Catherine Plagemann’s “Fanny’s Peach Jam” in Fine Preserving
6 yellow peaches, peeled, halved and pitted
Optional: 1 nectarine, halved and pitted
2 navel oranges, quartered, seeded but not peeled
1 lemon, quartered, seeded, but not peeled
Pinch of salt
12 small leaves of rose-scented geranium, rinsed
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Coarsely chop the orange and lemon in a food processor and add the peaches and optional nectarine, cutting the entire mixture into a medium grind. Measure the fruit and add a pinch of salt and sugar equal to 50-75% of the volume of fruit (e.g., for 6 cups of fruit, add 3-4 cups of sugar). Stir well, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Prepare kettle, jars and lids for water bath canning. Place a saucer in the freezer (to use for testing the gel).
In a large wide saucepan, bring the fruit mixture and 6 of the rose geranium leaves to a boil, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it sets a gel tested on a saucer placed in the freezer, about 12 minutes. Remove the geranium leaves and discard. Dunk the remaining leaves in hot water,
Ladle into prepared jars, inserting a small leaf in each jar, and stirring to release any air bubbles. Cap the jars with two-piece lids and process for 10 minutes after the water comes to a boil. Turn off the heat, remove the lid and let sit for 5 minutes before moving the jars to the counter to sit undisturbed until cool.
Makes approximately 6 eight-ounce jars.