Sweet and floral, white peaches are an early summer delight. Just sitting in a bowl in the middle of a table, they perfume the space. The dark red-violet skin belies white flesh within, tinged more and more with pink as they ripen. Aromas released.We ate them simply at first, just plain. And then, because we had so many, I made jam.Lavender, in bloom at the same time, seemed the right counterpart to the sweetness and delicacy of the fruit. It imparted an herbal, earthy taste and its distinctive aroma. I submerged freshly harvested lavender stalks in chopped peaches while they were macerating in sugar, including the flower buds and whatever leaves were attached. Left overnight, the perfumes blended perfectly. Although I removed the lavender sprigs before cooking the jam, a few fresh buds sprinkled in at the end remind us of the floral notes that make this pretty jam so intriguing.
White Peach and Lavender Jam
6-8 peaches (2½ lb measured after pitting, 6 c cubed)
Juice of 1 lemon, peel and seeds reserved
1½ c granulated sugar
Big pinch of salt
4-5 sprigs of fresh lavender, lightly rinsed
Peel the peaches by plunging them first into boiling water for a few seconds and then into ice water. The skins will slip off easily. Chop the peaches, dropping them into a large bowl in which you’ve placed the lemon juice. Add the sugar and salt and stir to combine, being careful not to bruise the fruit. Place the shell of half the lemon and any lemon seeds in a small muslin bag and immerse it in the fruit. Immerse the lavender sprigs in the peaches. Cover with crumpled parchment paper and macerate in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
(Alternatively, if your peaches are not juicy, you can cook the peaches, sugar and salt for about 10 minutes over low heat until they render their juice, cool them and immerse the bag of lemon seeds and peel and the herbs before setting aside overnight.)
Prepare the kettle, jars and lids for water bath canning. Place a small saucer in the freezer.
Remove the lemon sack and the lavender. Bring the peach mixture to a boil, reduce the heat until medium, and cook until thick and gelled, under 10 minutes. (If it’s too chunky, you can use an immersion blender to smooth it out.) Test for gel by placing a drop of jam on the frozen saucer. If it wrinkles to the touch, the gel is good. Spoon the jam into prepared jars and seal with two-piece lids that have been sterilized by dunking them in boiling water for under a minute.
Process the jars for 10 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Turn off the heat, remove the lid and let sit for 5 minutes before moving the jars to a counter to sit undisturbed until cool.
Makes 6-7 four-ounce jars.