White peach and basil jam

white peaches

I’m really trying to stop lamenting about the heat — the relentless, humid, Tuscan heat — but it’s hard when it engulfs you 24 hours a day and there’s barely any relief from it aside from taking cold showers throughout the day. But I know I’ll want it all back as soon as winter comes and I’m chilled to the bone with that damp Florentine cold that is so hard to shake off and I’m yearning for long days and sunshine. So I decided to take a deep breath, turn on the stove and embrace the Tuscan heat with something that screams summer to me: Jam.

Jam-making is one of my favourite summer activities. I don’t normally do it when there’s a heatwave, but ripe fruit does not wait for a heatwave to pass, and despite what many think, you really don’t want to use fruit that is past its prime for jamming. Artusi mentions it in his 1891 cookbook, too — choose perfect, well formed, just ripe fruit. It’s a way to capture the best of summer fruit, flavourful and sweet but also cheap and abundant, for enjoying months later.

white peach jam crostata

Then there are the peaches – fragrant, sweet, white-fleshed peaches. Next to watermelons, peaches for me are the classic high summer fruit. And then there’s a secret ingredient. Or better, unsuspected. Basil. I know it sounds odd at first, but bear with me, it’s lovely. It’s not my idea (though I wish it was). I read a recipe for marmellata di pesche in Patience Grey’s wonderful Honey from a Weed  — she calls for ‘blushing ripe peaches’ which are peeled, then cooked immediately with sugar and lemon juice with a couple sprigs of basil thrown in at the end. “The sugar quickly melts and raising the heat you go on stirring, marvelling at the changing colour of the fruit reminding one of Modigliani’s paintings.” She’s using yellow peaches which give the jam an intense golden colour. She also adds basil to her perata, a pear jam that I’ll be trying as soon as pear season hits. It reminded me of a cocktail Marco once made me when he was usually found behind a bar, and I remembered those fragrant summer flavours, surprisingly lovely together.

You could, like Ms Grey, use yellow fleshed peaches. But I wanted a blushing pink jam. Is there anything prettier than pastel pink jam on toast for breakfast? So I used white peaches and kept the skins on — this is vital for the colour. Thankfully I also have a food mill (passaverdura) that I picked up at a second hand shop for 3 euro. It’s a fantastic, old fashioned piece of equipment that I use for making sauces, soups and jams. The beauty of it is that it separates the skins from the pulp for you, so this is all made very easy.

This wobbly pink jam can then be spooned onto plain yogurt, ice cream or ricotta or simply lathered on bread. I also like it spread onto my homemade pastry crust and topped with some fresh cut peaches and baked.

white peach jam with ricotta and crostata slices

Marmellata di pesche e basilico
White peach and basil jam

Makes about 400 ml of jam

Note: I use an old fashioned Italian food mill (passaverdura or a mouli) to make this as it’s so very easy — just push the cooked peach bits through it and you get a puree for the jam and the skins are also removed in the process. The skins are what give this pretty jam its rosy tint. If you don’t have a food mill, your options are two — either peel the peaches before cooking them (in which case you won’t have a pink jam but a beige coloured one) or you can remove the skins tediously after cooking (in this case, I would suggest cutting the peaches into larger pieces, such as quarters. It will take a bit longer to cook but it won’t be as annoying to remove the skins afterwards).

  • 4 large white peaches (about 750 grams)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 250 grams of sugar
  • About 8 basil leaves

Chop the peaches, leaving the skin on, and remove the large seed. Place in a heavy-bottomed pot with the lemon and bring to the boil. Simmer on medium for about 10 minutes or until the fruit is very soft. Put it through a food mill to remove the skins.

Return the peach puree to the pot with the sugar and bring to a rolling boil. Boil on high for 15 minutes or until the jam looks shiny. Add in the basil leaves for the last minute. The saucer test is my favourite way to be sure that it’s ready.

The saucer test: Place a saucer or small plate in the freezer for at least 10 minutes to chill thoroughly. To test the jam, place a small blob on the frozen plate and watch how it acts. If ready, it should look thick and glossy, slide slowly when titled and when poked, the surface should wrinkle slightly.

Canning and preserving: If planning to use right away, I simply pour the hot jam into a spare, clean jar, screw on lid and let it cool completely before placing in the fridge. If you plan on storing your jam for months so you can enjoy this fragrant summer peach jam in winter, pour the hot jam into sterilised jars (boiled and air or oven dried for example) and screw lid on tightly. When cooled the jar should seal. If in doubt, process the jar by boiling the jar and its contents (lid on), covered, in a pot of water for 10 minutes. Let cool.

White peach jam crostata: To turn this jam into the crostata above, simply follow this recipe for crostata di marmellata (if you have my cookbook it is similar to that recipe too) and slice 2 fresh ripe but fairly firm white peaches and arrange them on top of the jam layer. Bake as for the crostata di marmellata recipe — note that this is a juicy tart thanks to the fresh peaches. It’s most wonderful on the day it’s baked as once it’s cut and left overnight (in the fridge of course) the juices can make the base slightly soggy and sticky, which some (me, me!) might like of course and in that case it is still delicious for a few days.

If you like jamming as much as I do, you might also like these:

Apricot Jam (and crostata)
Rose petal Jam
Little cherry tarts (made with a fresher compote of cherries more than a jam — like a quick fix for jam cravings)
Sweet Tomato Jam

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Comments

12 Responses to “White peach and basil jam”
  1. Val says:

    I usually prefer peaches fresh, but that color is so appealing I may have to try this! The lovely color reminds me of my favorite (one of my many favorites), quince jelly.

  2. Doreen says:

    Buongiorno Emiko,
    Thank you so much for that recipe – I already bought white peaches yesterday and am looking forward to try it. It sounds delicious!! Just one question … at which point do I add the basil? I can’t find that in your recipe.
    Saluti,
    D.

    • Emiko Davies says:

      Oh thank you for pointing that out, I was so keen to get the post up that I missed out that detail (it has now been updated). The basil just goes in right at the end.

  3. So pretty! I have a tablecloth I bought from a flea market in Pietrasanta that this jam will look heavenly sitting upon once the summer arrives here.

  4. Christine Beveridge says:

    I was waiting for the response about when to add the basil, because you don’t want to overcook basil. I will be definitely be keeping this recipe in mind when we get to summer here in Australia. Thanks again, Emiko.

  5. Christine Beveridge says:

    Obviously didn’t proofread that!

  6. Sabine says:

    Hi Emiko,
    I´m in awe with the wonderful flavors (and color!) of your marmellata! Summer in a jar, definitely…many greetings from PAris, Sabine

  7. TonyM says:

    Sadly my peaches don’t last long enough to make jam!
    I think I’ll just have to go out and buy some for this recipe alone. Thanks for posting.
    We just finished off a Nectarine Cake so now we’ll just have to make your crostata,

  8. kathleen says:

    Just used the jam recipe without basil but added earl grey tea. I added 2 bags steeping with the jam while it cooked and dumped 1/2 bag opened directly into the jam. It came out so yummy!

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