September already and three-quarters of the Can Jam entries tucked away in the pantry, dreaming of winter. Where did the year go? I have to admit that when Miss Kate over at Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking announced stone fruit as the September Can Jam fruit-of-focus, I’m sure I let out a huge groan. Having just preserved about a bizillion-and-one pounds of peaches, not to mention plums, apricots and nectarines, I thought that I was done with stone fruits for the season. Guess again!
As often happens, however, when I’m not particularly stressed about the outcome (says she, as she grudgingly stomps off to the farm for another 2 lbs of nectarines), I come up with something pretty special. I was dubious about this one as it sat macerating in the fridge: the ancho chile took the beautiful contrast between white pears and yellow nectarines and turned everything a muddy brown; there was a lot more fruit than syrup; and the smell upon simmering was… not encouraging. But now that it’s all said and done, I’m kind of in love with this jam; it’s one of my favorites of this year. It’s definitely spicy and the spice hits you first: no surprise hint or lingering finish here. This is redhead spice: she’ll slap you around, tell you that you like it, and make you beg for more. But there is a complexity to this jam that belies the violent imagery: the sweetness of the fruit, sugar and honey play off the spice like a Simon & Garfunkel harmony; the spice itself is layered, with a backbone of smoky ancho supporting the dramatic riffs of the flashy guajillo. The nectarine and pear are like the loyal doo-wop girls: you might not notice them at first, but without them, the song is flat. And then, because no band jam is complete without it: tequila.
And there you have it: fruit, chiles, and booze. I don’t know what took me so long.
Nectarine, Pear & Chile Jam
- 1 large lemon (zest & juice)
- 1 and 3/4 lb nectarines, peeled, pitted, sliced
- 1 and 3/4 lbs pears, peeled, cored, stemmed, sliced (I used D’Anjou)
- 2 and 1/2 cups raw sugar
- 1 ancho chile, with seeds (1/2 oz), minced (warm the chilé in a dry skillet or microwave for ease in chopping)
- 1 guajillo chile,with seeds (1/8 oz), minced
- pinch sea salt
- 1 pint apple pectin stock
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/4 cup tequila
- Day 1. Combine lemon zest & juice, nectarines, pears, sugar, chiles and salt in a medium stockpot or Dutch oven. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat, transfer to a glass or ceramic bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Day 2. Tip fruit mixture into stockpot or Dutch oven, bring to a simmer over medium heat, then return to bowl and refrigerate overnight.
- Day 3. Prepare canner, jars and lids.
- Transfer pear/nectarine mixture to a wide, heavy-bottomed stockpot or Dutch oven. Add apple pectin stock, honey and tequila. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil briskly until syrup is reduced, bubbling thickly, spits when you scrape a spoon across the bottom of the pan, and/or the jam reads 220 degrees F on an instant thermometer, about 15 – 20 minutes. Cook at 220 degrees F for 1 minute; ladle hot jam into hot, sterilized jars to 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Yields about 5 cups.
- I thought that the nectarine flavor in this jam was a little overpowered by the chile; Tai thinks it is just right. Either way, I suspect this jam would be excellent with peaches, which are always good with chiles, but also have a bit more flavor oomph than nectarines.
- While pears and apples are often used interchangeably, I think apples would be too tart for this recipe and would distract from the sweet/spicy flavors.
- You can always safely increase the sugar or honey should you desire.
- I found the set to be a little firm for my taste, more like a jelly than a jam (again, Tai likes it this way). If you like a looser, preserves-like set, try 1 cup of apple pectin stock instead of two. You will likely need to add another cup of liquid (juice, booze, water, etc.).
- The tequila was added mostly to increase the liquid, but I do think it adds a little something-something to the final product. If you have cringe-inducing college tequila memories, you could try a spicy white wine, some peach/nectarine or pear juice, or plain old water.
Canned, store at cool room temperature, in the dark, for up to 1 year. Refrigerated, use within 1 month.
Late summer into early Fall.