Peach Jam

"There is something very comforting about the ritual of jam-making. It speaks of cellars filled with preserves; of neat rows of jars on pantry shelves. It speaks of winter mornings and bowls of chocolat au lait, with thick slices of good fresh bread and last year's peach jam, like a promise of sunshine at the darkest point of the year. It speaks of four stone walls, a roof, and of seasons that turn in the same place, in the same way, year after year, with sweet familiarity. It is the taste of home."
Peaches for Monsieur le CuréJoanne Harris

I ALWAYS write out sentences or phrases now that catch my attention in the books I'm reading - in my notebook, on my phone and scrawled on scraps of paper.
Those that mention food often stand out, probably because they are so evocative - of smells, textures, tastes; of particular times of year.
This in turn can get me in the mood for cooking or baking something specific, and makes the stories come alive, combining the two worlds of food and books.
I remember watching a programme when I was little where Gary Rhodes cooked dishes based on Roald Dahl stories (Bruce Bogtrotter's chocolate cake from Matilda springs to mind).
And I loved stumbling across The Little Library Cafe blog and, subsequently, the creator Kate Young's pieces in the Guardian (though I actually I haven't read most of the books she references in them) and I look forward to seeing her own book when it comes out next year.
The food writer Diana Henry brilliantly pairs food with literature in her books too.
I have written before on the inspiration to cook from reading - with pain d'épices from Chocolat -
and actually it is from another Joanne Harris book, as I belatedly work my through them, that I wanted to make something.
And with the book being Peaches for Monsieur le Curé, obviously it involves peaches. 
The fruit (a symbol of eternal life in Chinese culture) seems to have a particular storybook appeal, with its soft fuzziness and golden glow
Of course, back to Roald Dahl, there is James and the Giant Peach, with juicy flesh gobbled by James and the insects and dripping down the Empire State Building, and I loved a book called Each Peach Pear Plum when I was little (okay I still love it), though in the end it's a plum pie that features.
But in Peaches for Monsieur le Curé there's a luscious jam, given to friends and neighbours and used to make pastries eaten with hot chocolate.
With jam (actually quite easy and quick to make) the peaches - bubbling and frothing away - turn from pale yellow and red, to rose-gold, to burnished dark orange and amber.
It was tempting to add a little rosemary or thyme, and mint would be good too. 
But I kept it simple and sweet; and it tastes like barley sugars: that sweet familiarity and taste of home... 


First put a small plate in the freezer (you'll use this to test whether the jam is ready later).
Place 600g of jam sugar in a large (preferably tall) pan with the same quantity 
of roughly-chopped peaches (five or six, and I leave the skin on) along with the juice of a lemon.
Bring to a boil, stirring to mix the sugar and help it dissolve. 
Bubble for around 20 minutes, again stirring frequently.
Place a small dollop onto the cold plate, and if it wrinkles and looks, well, jammy, it's ready.
Leave it for 20 minutes, before decanting into sterilised jars
(dishwasher-ed jars are fine but need to be still-warm when you fill them).
Leave to cool completely, then use to slather on thick bread, toast, or as a
filling for an alternative Victoria sandwich. 
Or make like Vianne Rocher and whip up some breakfast pastries - 
ideally eaten in the garden of a quaint French town in summer.

"'We've been making pastries. Magic ones, to make you well.'
...'It isn't really magic, of course. But food that has been 
made with love does have special properties."
Peaches for Monsieur le CuréJoanne Harris


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