Making peach preserves (peach jam) is one of the best way to preserve summer peaches and enjoy the taste of summer fruit all year long.
This simple, old fashioned recipe includes just 3 ingredients: peaches, sugar, and lemon juice. A nice, slow simmer concentrates the peach flavor and eliminates the need for additional pectin.
The result is peach preserves with the most intense, bright, and fresh flavor.
Homemade Preserves (Jam) is the Best Way to Preserve Peaches
Until May of 2020 when my husband and I became full-time RV nomads, I'd spent my entire life in Colorado. There are a lot of great things about Colorado, but Colorado peaches are easily one of my favorite things about the state.
I looked forward to Colorado peaches all year, every year. But, as you might imagine, the growing season is relatively short. Sometimes we'd get lucky and have a year when Colorado peaches were available for an entire month. Other years, the really good ones were only available for a couple of weeks.
Even though we are now full time travelers, we visit Colorado every fall. And, even though nothing can compare to eating a fresh, ripe peach, standing over the sink, juice dripping down my chin, I'll do what I've done every summer and preserve and freeze as many as I can.
Because there's really nothing better than opening a jar of sweet, juicy peach preserves on a cold, dreary January morning.
What's the Difference Between Preserves, Jam, and Jelly?
Jam and preserves are very similar and the terms are often used interchangeably.
Both jam and preserves are made from fresh fruit and sugar, and very little else. The only real difference between the two is that jam uses crushed fruit, while preserves uses whole chunks.
Jelly is notably different from jam or preserves, both in the way it's made and in the flavor and consistency of the finished product. Jelly is made from fruit juice rather than whole fruit and has a smooth, clear consistency that's free of actual pieces of fruit.
Jelly has it's place, but it's not what I'm looking for when I want to preserve the fruit itself.
For me, the entire reason to make peach preserves is because it's one of the best way to preserve peaches. I make a batch (or 3) every year because I want the luxury of tasting summer peaches all year long.
How to Make Peach Preserves without Pectin
Right from the start, let me clarify that there is technically no such thing as making peach preserves without pectin because it's a naturally occurring substance found in peaches.
That's right. Peaches already contain pectin. In fact, all fruit (and most vegetables) contain varying amounts of pectin.
What is pectin?
Pectin is kind of like a glue that helps hold cell walls together. In jam or preserves, pectin traps liquid and creates a thickened (set) consistency that suspends pieces of fruit and makes the jam or preserves spreadable.
The reason many jam and preserves recipes include additional pectin is to ensure that it will set. In recipes that use low-pectin fruit, like cherries or strawberries, this is essential.
But, when preserving fruit with medium to large amounts of pectin, adding even more can interfere with the bright, fresh taste of the fruit. Also, too much pectin can create a jell-o like consistency. So, I prefer to just not add more if I don't have to.
Peaches contain a moderate level of pectin, which is why so many peach preserves and jam recipes include a bit extra. But after years and years of making successful batches of homemade peach preserves, I have found that additional pectin is not necessary as long as you allow the preserves to cook long enough.
A long, gentle simmer concentrates the peach juice in these preserves. When the juice is concentrated, less pectin is needed for it to set. Even better, the concentrated juice intensifies the delicious fresh peach flavor.
It's one of those beautiful examples of old fashioned simplicity - less ingredients, cooked in the right way, creates the best tasting and highest quality result.
How to Make the Best Peach Preserves:
Over the years, many generous people have left a comment on this post with their tips and tricks for how to make the best preserves.
Rather than hope that other readers read through the comments to find all these juicy tidbits, I've compiled them here. Thank you to all of you who so generously share your tips for preserve making!
Reader Tips for Making Homemade Preserves:
- If your preserves are chunkier then you'd like, simply use an immersion blender to puree them to the consistency you prefer.
- Avoid using an aluminum pan to make these preserves. The acid in the fruit and lemon juice can react with aluminum and cause the preserves to get super dark and take on a metal taste.
- Adding a very small amount of butter to the mixture at the beginning of the cooking process helps keeps the mixture from bubbling up. The butter also eliminates a lot of the foam that sometimes occurs. For one batch, I add about a ½ teaspoon of butter. It works so great, and I hope others will try it.
- A few readers have made this without peeling the peaches and said they turned out great. One reader said she used an immersion blender to puree the preserves after they cooled, but I've had a couple of other readers say they didn't peel or puree the peaches and they were delicious.
- Blanching the peaches in a pot of boiling water makes peaches easy to peel. Simply submerge the peaches in boiling water for 40 seconds which should loosen the skin.
- One reader said she cooked her preserves in her slow cooker with the lid off. She said her preserves "turned out darker but still oh so good!"
How to Store Peach Preserves
There are three ways to store preserves:
- Store the preserves in sealed jars that have been processed in a boiling water bath for up to 18 months
- Store the preserves in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks
- Store the preserves in the freezer for up to 6 months
This recipe includes instructions for processing jars in a boiling water bath (canning), which will preserve the peach jam for up to 18 months.
Canning is a great way to preserve food in jars that can be safely stored at room temperature for a long period of time. Setting jars of peach preserves in a pan of boiling water pushes air from the jar and creates a vacuum seal as the jars cool. This keeps air and microorganisms that can cause the peaches to spoil out.
You can also store peach preserves in the refrigerator or freezer.
Peach preserves can be safely stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks or frozen for up to 6 months. It is safe to consume jam that's been frozen for up to 12 months, but it starts to loose it's flavor and character when frozen longer than 6 months.
If you want to make a large amount of peach preserves, I'd advise making successive batches rather than doubling this recipe. Not only would you need a very large pan to cook a larger batch, the increased amount of juice will mean you have to cook it much longer, causing the peaches to brown and start to loose flavor.
How Long Does it Take to Make Peach Preserves?
This recipe is truly simple, requiring little more than chopping peaches, dumping them into a pan with some sugar and lemon juice, and letting them do their thing.
The total time that the peaches need to simmer in order to thicken into jam depends on how juicy your peaches are. The juicier the peaches, the longer your preserves will need to simmer in order to reach the jell point. Just be patient. It'll be sooooo worth it.
If you're using a pan with a thick bottom, you don't need to stand over your stove stirring all the time. In fact, at first you'll only need to stir every once in a while.
But, as the mixture begins to thicken, you'll want to stir more frequently to prevent scorching, but there's no need to stand there stirring the whole time.
Frequently Asked Questions About Making Peach Preserves:
The longer you cook peach preserves, the more the peach juice will concentrate and thickens. This is the good news. The bad news is that, it will start to splatter a bit.
This cannot be helped, but can be painful and messy if your pan is not deep enough to (mostly) contain the splatters. So, use the largest saucepan as you have. And, maybe wear long sleeves. 😊
It's also important to use a saucepan with a thick, heavy bottom to prevent the peach preserves from burning. I use either a large enameled cast iron dutch oven or an 8-quart stockpot.
If you don't have a heavy pan with a thick bottom, you'll just need to be sure and stir your preserves quite frequently to prevent scorching.
This is a "long cooking" recipe for preserves which means that fruit, sugar, and lemon juice is cooked until the liquid gels. Long cooking recipes require less sugar than "quick cooking" recipes which require additional pectin.
Sugar does a lot more for preserves than contribute sweetness. Sugar is a preservative, inhibiting microbial activity and keeping the preserves safe to eat.
Sugar also works with the natural pectin in the fruit to enhance pectin's gel-forming capability so that the preserves thicken and "set". So, I'd suggest not going lower than the minimum amount of 2 ½ cups.
The problem with doubling this recipe is that it will take twice as long to cook, increasing the chances that the bottom of your preserves will scorch if you don't spend a lot of time stirring it.
So, in most cases, I'd recommend making successive batches instead of making one large batch. A double batch of preserves will take almost as long to cook as two successive batches, so doubling up won't really save you much time anyway.
Yes! Cutting this recipe in half will make approximately 32 ounces (for 8oz jars) of jam. Use 2 lemons, 3 lbs of peaches, and 1 ¼ - 1 ¾ cups of sugar.
When making a smaller batch, the preserves won't take as long to cook - about 30 minutes to 1 hour. Stir frequently, and use the freezer test (explained in step #3 of the recipe) to determine when the preserves are done.
Yes! A couple of readers have written in to say that they’ve made peach preserves in a slow cooker with great success.
Cook the preserves on low for an hour with the lid on. Remove the lid and stir. Then continue to cook with the lid off for 2-4 hours until the preserves are set.
If your jam didn’t set, the first thing to do is wait. Put the jam in the refrigerator for 24 - 48 hours because it can sometimes take that long for the pectin to work its magic.
If it still hasn’t set, you’ll need to re-cook it with a bit of added pectin. Add 8 cups of the preserves to a saucepan and add an additional ¼ cup sugar and 1 tablespoon powdered pectin. Stir to dissolve the sugar and pectin then cook the preserves over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until thickened. Use the freezer test (explained in step #3 of the recipe) to determine if it’s set.
Pour the jam into jars and proceed with the recipe.
You can replace all of the sugar in this recipe with honey, but you'll need to add a bit of pectin.
Honey is sweeter than sugar, so I'd use approximately 1 ½ cups of honey and 1 tablespoon of pectin. You'll also probably need to cook the preserves longer. Just be patient and use the "freezer test (explained in step #3 of the recipe) to determine when they are done.
Yes! Toss frozen peach slices, lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan and let it sit for about an hour until the peaches start to thaw. Stir again and proceed with the recipe.
Peach Preserves is a Building Block Recipe. Building Blocks are tried-and-true recipes that I find myself coming back to time and time again, sometimes to make them exactly as is, and sometimes as a starting point for something new. -> More Building Block Recipes.
If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Scroll down to rate this recipe and leave a comment, or take a picture and tag it @ofbatteranddough on Instagram.
- The juice from 4 large lemons (approximately 8 tbsp/ 117ml)
- 6 lbs fresh peaches
- 2 ½ - 3 ½ cups (500 - 700g) granulated sugar
- Pour the lemon juice into a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Peel, pit, and chop the peaches into small, bite-size chunks. Add the peaches to the lemon juice as you chop, stirring with each addition to coat the peaches in the lemon juice which will prevent them from browning.
- Pour the sugar over the peaches and stir gently to coat the peaches in the sugar. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for 1 hour. *NOTE: The amount of sugar will depend on the sweetness of your peaches. If the peaches are quite sweet, 2 ½ cups of sugar will suffice.
- Bring the mixture to a full boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium and allow to simmer for 1-2 hours, until the liquid has reduced significantly and is thick and jelly-like. As the preserves begins to thicken you'll want to stir more and more frequently to prevent scorching. (The Freezer Test: To test whether the preserves are done, place a small dish in the freezer until very cold. Spoon a small amount of preserves onto the cold dish, allowing it to cool quickly and providing an accurate sense of how thick the juice is.)
- Pour the hot mixture into very clean, dry glass jars leaving about ¼ inch at the top. Using a damp cloth or paper towel, wipe the tops of the jar to ensure a clean seal. Cap and screw on lids, leaving them a bit loose.
- Bring a large pot of water, or water-bath canner, to a rolling boil and gently lower the jars into the boiling water using tongs. The water should cover the jars by at least ½ inch. Let process for 10 minutes. Remove the jars from the water bath and place upside down on a dry towel laid out on a flat surface. Allow to cool completely. (*See note)
How do you know if the jars are properly sealed?
Once the jars are cool, check the seal by gently pressing down on the center of the lid. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If that should happen to a jar or two, just store the preserves in the refrigerator and use it within 3 weeks. Properly sealed jars can be stored in the cupboard for up to 12 months.
How long do peach preserves last?
Store preserves in the refrigerator for up to 3 week, in the freezer for up to 6 months, or in properlay sealed jars for up to 18 months.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 64 Serving Size: 1 ounce
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 47Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 1gSugar: 11gProtein: 0g
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