Pre-Pearl Harbor peach preserves are historically delicious

PeachMichelle recently made two wise decisions: teach Steve how to make jam and get a monthly subscription to the newly-available online archives of our local newspaper, the Courier-Journal. Steve has pitted, chopped, sugared and boiled plums, cherries, peaches and (currently) wild blackberries, filling our freezer with an overflow of jam. With her newly-found spare time this fruit season, Michelle has perused old restaurant reviews, advertising and such, bemoaning the fact that this treasure trove wasn’t there when we were writing our book. (Yes, the book is still available!) She has done crazy things like read the whole 200+ page Sunday paper from the day she was born in (ahem) 1959 (so many ads!). And, she also found this wonderful recipe for peach preserves, with a multi-step process that Steve greatly appreciated.Peach preserves

Steve had already made several jars of peach jam, but wasn’t that thrilled with any of them. (He will still eat them, however.) Some were too runny, some too chunky, some were cooked to the point of almost being caramelized. Since peach season in Kentucky was only just beginning, he was willing to try another technique.

WWII poster

One of the many WWII posters in our kitchen. What can we say? We love propaganda.

It seems that in August 1941, while the Nazis were beginning to run into trouble in Russia and the Japanese advanced on Thailand, Kentucky was having a banner year for peaches. The local newspaper’s Marie Gibson wanted to help “Kentucky housewives prepare to take advantage of the abundant crop,” so she offered a second week of peach recipes, including sweet pickled peaches, peach ice cream, peach mousse and a recipe for peach preserves that Michelle thought might work for Steve. She worried that the multi-step process of cooking, straining, recombining, re-straining, cooking and remixing again would be too fiddly, but Steve saw how working to thicken only peach-infused sugar syrup might produce a nice jammy consistency without reducing the peaches to mush.

Peach preserves

Making the preserves did take a while, including an overnight stay in sugar syrup for the semi-cooked slices. In the end, however, the recipe from August 1941 did turn out to be the best of the lot. A few jars were filled with chunks of peaches suspended in a sweet, rosy syrup. Steve may make a few more batches, if there are any local peaches remaining after blackberry season ends. Michelle will keep reviewing her old newspapers, enjoying history and the freedom from standing over a boiling pot of sugar. Possibly, in the very near future, she will also enjoy a biscuit laden with some delightful, archival peach preserves.


  • Servings: about 6 half-pint jars
  • Print

(adapted from a 1941 article in the Louisville Courier-Journal newspaper)

  • 4 c. sugar
  • 2 c. hot water
  • 2 quarts peeled, pitted and sliced peaches

Make a syrup of the sugar and water in a large pot, heating until sugar is dissolved. Add peach slices and cook until they are “clear.” Remove peach slices with a slotted spoon and place in a large, shallow container (e.g., a roasting pan). Boil syrup for about 5 minutes longer, then pour over peach slices. Let cool, then cover and let sit at room temperature for a few hours or overnight.

Drain mixture through a fine strainer over large pot. Place peaches in a large bowl. Boil the syrup until thick, about 220° F, then pour over the peaches.

Fill sterilized jars, then process or (as we do) just let cool and freeze.


  1. How great to find and use recipes from long ago. I have been trying recipes from the south west of France dating back over 300 years, very interesting.

  2. This is interesting because what is now often called “the ferber method” has many similarities with this one you describe. Christine Ferber is a very famous French confiturier and her books are also available in English. People rave about her (expensive, of course) jams which are characyerized by this lovely, clear colour and intensely fruity flavour. She adopts a similar technique, worth knowing: the fruit is cut up, covered in sugar (she uses very often the 1:1 ratio) brought very gently to boil and let to rest overnight. The following day the fruit will have release a lot of sugary juices. The fruit is removed, the juices are boiled down to their jellying poin, the fruit is added back and then boiled few minutes more. In the end one has this beautiful, translucent, fruity jelly like -jam (does it make sense). In which large, intact pieces od fruit are suspnded. She does use a lot of sugar but for some strange reason (she explains why, by the way) the jam does not taste overtly sugary. Also they mprove with age. If you google Ferber + mes confitures you will find lots of material + you could also try savoury preserced peach slices – very good with cold meat. here in the uk the peachs are only half decent and they come from Spain mostly, so bless your luck to have local, flavoursome peaches ( try also Piedmontse roastd paches, as a pudding, with almonds and amaretti and zabaglione) .see u soon. Ciao, stefano

    • There are no new things under the sun, are there? I’ve seen Ferber’s jams in France and read a bit about her, but admit I hadn’t paid much attention to her methods. Now you’ve got me thinking about that pudding…

  3. Those peaches look just … peachy. Fabulous recipe for keeping their texture and flavour. I wish we could get decent peaches in the UK … occasionally one strikes lucky but often they’re unripe or woolly. Enjoy!

  4. Gorgeous. Have you guys been taking photography lessons? One question that you I got know the answer to – why is it called canning, when it should maybe be called jarring?

    • Thanks, Mimi! No, no lessons (other than a couple of days with Roger Stowell several years back). I think the truth may be that I just like taking phone photos better than I do fooling with the real camera and Photoshop and such which is such a chore and maybe that comes through now that I’ve almost abandoned the old DSLR! And good question on the canning vs. jarring…

  5. Fascinating story as well as a lovely recipe. My Mum used to bottle peaches – they were a delicious reminder of summer in the depths of winter.

  6. These old recipes are oftentimes the best, Michelle, and it sounds like you’ve found a really good one. I’ve never attempted peach preserves but will use this recipe if I do. Thanks, By the way, I’ve got several magazines from the week and month that I was born. They’re an interesting read even though they neglected to announce my birth. .

  7. Andrea

    I made this last year and it was heavenly. I am making it again right now. Can I double the recipe without anything happening, or do I need to do them separately?

    • Steve

      Both limited pot size and fear of boiling sugar have prevented us from trying batches larger than our recipe. But if you’re more confident in fishing around in larger vats of syrup, we don’t see why it shouldn’t work. Let us know if you try it!

      • Andrea

        Hi Steve. I understand. Thanks
        I have another question. I the Easy Homemade Peach Syrup recipe, it says 4-5 peaches. My homegrown peaches are golf ball size & smaller, not baseball size. How many CUPS of peaches would that be?

      • Andrea

        Thank you. One more question, please. In your instructions you say to add peach slices & cook until they are “clear”. What does “clear” mean? And about how long does it take for you? Thanks

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