Nectarines…a food doesn’t get a name like that for nothing. The flavor of nectarines is nothing short of transcendent. It conjures up the food of the gods, the raw material for honey, the sweetest, most delectable taste imaginable. Nectarines don’t disappoint.
The Washington State Fruit Commission sent me a shipment of gorgeous nectarines last week, and I’m returning the favor by sharing a delicious, and a little unexpected, way to keep the nectarine party going all year long. Their site, Sweet Preservation, is dedicated to the art of preserving fresh fruit, and it’s full of recipes, tips, and even downloadable labels. Did you know that nectarines and peaches are technically the same fruit? The thinner, non-fuzzy skin and brighter flavor of nectarines is the result of a happy mutation. I think I prefer them to peaches because the flavor seems tarter and more vivid, and the flesh is a little firmer. In any event they work beautifully in this spicy jam.
I could have made a straightforward breakfast spread out of my windfall of nectarines, but I couldn’t resist setting them on fire with a couple of habanero peppers. Tiny orange habaneros are small, but one of the hotter peppers out there, and they give this jam a real punch. Hot pepper jam is one of the more exciting taste experiences you’re likely to have, with the intensity amped up both on the sweet end and the spicy end. Your taste buds get a real workout! We love hot pepper jam with cheese and crackers — once you get your first bite, it’s hard to stop, the stuff is seriously addictive!
I don’t peel the nectarines for this jam because so much of the flavor resides in the peel, and it lends a nice color as well. About 6-8 nectarines will make around 2 1/2 pints of jam. This recipe is for a refrigerator, or freezer, jam, meaning it’s not meant to be water bath canned. You can keep it in the fridge and eat it within a few weeks, or freeze it for up to a year. I’m a fan of this method because I think it allows for a fresher taste and texture. It also allows you to use much less sugar than is required for canning. You have greater freedom with refrigerator/freezer recipes because you aren’t bound by rigid sugar/acid ratios necessary for safe canning.
I ladle the hot jam into small jars because a little goes a long way here, and they’re the perfect size for putting out with a cheese tray. I kept one jar in the fridge for immediate use (within 3 weeks) and I stashed the rest in the freezer, where they’ll keep for a year. I always make sure to save a jar or two for holiday get-togethers.
- 6-7 ripe nectarines, chopped but not peeled (about 4 1/2 cups chopped)
- 2 habanero peppers, de-stemmed and rough chopped, seeds and all
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 box powdered low or no sugar pectin (1.75 ounce)
- Put all the chopped nectarines and the chopped habanero peppers in a heavy pot or large saucepan. Add the sugar and 1/3 cup water. Stir to combine and heat on medium high heat until the mixture boils. Turn down the heat a bit and boil gently for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the fruit has softened.
- Use an immersion blender to partially puree the mixture. Be careful, as it is super hot. I like to leave the jam with a few chunks still left in it for a nice texture.
- Put the jam back over medium heat and add the pectin. Stir well and bring back to a boil. Boil one minute longer.
- Fill clean jars with the hot jam. If you are going to freeze the jam, leave 1/2 inch free at the top to allow for expansion as it freezes.
- Cover and let the jams sit until they are at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks or in the freezer for up to a year.
Use caution when handling habaneros, they are very hot and the oil will burn sensitive areas of your body. Wash thoroughly after chopping them..
- Feel free to boil the jam longer if yours seems very thin.
Check out Sweet Preservation for lots more recipes and ideas for how to can all your favorite summer fruit. With just a little planning you can have all sorts of great holiday gifts waiting in your pantry (or freezer!)
a few more easy canning projects…