More ice cream topping!

With so many peaches around, I can’t turn them all into cobblers, not matter how well my daughter eats. One alternative is once again: jam. Here I have to say that peaches test my patience every single year. Last year I got a half bushel of white peaches (clingstones) that were very firm and flavorful, yet the jam they made was pretty mediocre. Extremely firm from all the pectin, but clumpy from all the hard bits of fruit.

This year I made a point to get softer yellow fruit, since I wanted a change in both flavor and texture. I made it the very same way I made last year’s, simply cooked fruit and sugar with no added pectin, and the result was fruit soup. Why? Simply because there’s a direct relationship between a fruit’s firmness and its pectin content. Pectin is what makes an apple hard. The lack of it makes a raspberry soft. But just because a fruit starts out with a lot of pectin doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way.

As fruit ages, the pectin in it starts to break down. The fruit softens. At the same time sugars develop, aroma is enhanced, all the attributes we associate with good ripe fruit come into being. Yet if the process goes to far, not so much that the fruit spoils, there won’t be enough usable pectin left in the flesh to cause a jam to gel. That’s what happened with me this fall. I should have known to spike it with a little powdered pectin. Fortunately, I happen to know a couple people who fancy peach ice cream.

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