Simple, sweet, and straightforward. Gifts of jars of jam make good neighbors, too.
The lawnmower stops its roar, then the line trimmer ceases, and finally the leaf blower. In the relative silence, as the crew moves toward their truck, I walk toward their boss with a jar in my hand. “Thanks so much – I want to give you this marmalade I made.” “Mmm, orange?” he says. “Thank you!” Then, after a pause he smiles shyly, “I like peach jam a lot, too.”Skip to next paragraph
The Rowdy Chowgirl
Christina Masters is a Seattle-based food blogger. As The Rowdy Chowgirl, she writes about recipes, gardening, restaurants, food ethics, feeding the hungry, and more. She believes that food is never just food – it is always part of a larger story that includes context, community and connections. An enthusiastic home cook, she favors local, seasonal ingredients prepared in simple, flavorful ways
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They hop in the truck, wave, drive about ten feet, and park again.
My next-door neighbor has a landscaping business, and during the summer he stops by once a month or so with his crew on their way home from work. They do my lawn in the gathering dusk before moving on to do his own yard. I’m sure that it is abundantly obvious to him that I could not keep up with the lawn on my own. He has always refused to accept money for this service, so I try to repay him in some measure with cookies, muffins, or fresh tomatoes.
In the decade or so that we have been neighbors, I have seen his children grow up and have children of their own. His wife and I exchange waves and hellos as we pull out of our parallel driveways. But it is Tomás who has come over to investigate, with his dog at his side and a shovel over his shoulder, when he has heard my security alarm go off. And it is Tomás that I see regularly, as his guys whip around my yard with professional speed, leaving order in their wake.
I live in a neighborhood of good neighbors – the kind who chat in front yards and exchange pet-sitting duties and cross the street with a snow shovel to lend a hand with clearing the driveway or even shoo the occasional bird out of the house while I cover my head with my hands in panic. But there is something special about this steadfast, consistent kindness, this willingness to take a few extra minutes at the end of a hard day’s work to do one more lawn, to keep an eye out for a chance to help.
So, of course, I had been keeping an eye out for the first peaches of the summer at the Farmer’s Market. And finally they arrived, big, golden piles of them from farms in Eastern Washington, and it was time to make peach jam for Tomás.
This is just about the most straightforward peach jam recipe there is. Four ingredients, a couple hours of your time, and you’ll have jars of pure sunshine. I made a second batch using some Earl Grey tea, boiled in a muslin bag with the fruit, for a little bergamot flavor that adds complexity to the sweetness of the peaches. But you can’t go wrong with this basic version.
Adapted from 175 Best Jams, Jellies, Marmalades & Other Soft Spreads, by Linda J. Amendt
Makes about seven 8-oz jars
4 cups ripe peaches, pitted, peeled, and crushed (about 4 lbs peaches)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 box (1.75 oz) powdered fruit pectin
5-1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided