Food & Drink

Jam the perfect way to enjoy the taste of summer

I just returned from a quick trip with my best friend, Janna Erickson, who now lives in Houston, Texas.

We visited her parents, Mason and Elaine Huggins, in Janna’s hometown of Lexington, S.C. While there, we stopped at a local produce shed and came away with a half-bushel of the best peaches I’ve ever tasted, and some dang-good boiled peanuts, too.

Before returning to Macon the following day, her parents sent with us a couple dozen ears of sweet corn from Mr. Huggins’ garden and a half-dozen or so homegrown tomatoes from a church friend of theirs. Janna and I, best friends for more than 20 years and still Carolina girls at heart, really know gourmet Southern cuisine. And in the slang of the South, I wholeheartedly agree with the saying, “It don’t get much better than this!”

Now, what to do with all these peaches? After eating our fill, we decided to make some peach jam.

Janna, a fabulous cook in her own right, had never made homemade jam. (It amazes me how many people haven’t.)

Her daddy always plants a huge garden. She has shelled butter peas until her thumbs were almost raw more times than she cares to recall and helped can endless quarts of vegetables, and I would enter Janna in a corn-shucking contest of world championship class. But she held jam-making and fruit preserves at an arm’s length. I set about to show her how easy it is. We had a lot of fun getting creative with several varieties of peach jam.

I have such great memories of making all sorts of preserves and jams with my mother and daddy. It was a family project. We would awake early, before it got too hot, then go pick the fruit (strawberries, blackberries, peaches, etc.) ourselves, come home and make homemade preserves.

That night for supper, mother would always make up a batch of biscuits. Butter-slathered biscuits topped with the “fruits of our labors” was the perfect ending to a perfect day spent with family. And when the cold weather arrived, how wonderful it was to be able to pull a jar out of the pantry and enjoy a taste of summer. Great memories — peach fuzz and all!

Today, I’ll share with you some new recipes I’ve come up with. Yes, there’s the simple and straightforward approach with Old Fashioned Peach Jam, but why stop there?

If you love the combination of sweet peaches and the zing of fresh ginger, try the Ginger-Peach Jam. Want a little more adventure? Make the Peach Jam with Amaretto (great with a double or triple cream brie cheese.) My personal favorite is my Peach Cobbler Jam, filled with aromatic spices and oh-so-perfect on buttered toast, biscuits or my mother’s pound cake. And you really need to try my Spicy Peach Jam with Garlic and Chiles. Serve it with cream cheese and crackers, sharp cheddar cheese or alongside grilled chicken or pork.

I hope I’ve tempted you enough to take a short road-trip of your own to one of our peach orchards around Middle Georgia. Some even have terrific gift shops and make their own peach ice cream.

Come home with lots of fresh, tree-ripened peaches and set to work in your kitchen creating homemade peach jam and memories of your own.

My recipes I’ll share with you any day. My best friend, Janna Erickson, however, is already taken. She’s mine! She flew back to Houston today, leaving just a few short hours ago, and I miss her already.

Teddi Wohlford is a professional chef and owner of Culinary Creations, fine gourmet catering.