It’s the middle of summer, and one of the plum trees in my backyard (the youngest one, the one that the squirrels can’t climb) was so heavy with fruit that the limbs are sagging. However, much of that weight seemed to be skin and pit, not flavor or flesh. So what to do with this bounty of free fruit? Find a jam recipe that doesn’t require pitting or peeling.
My neighbor had the recipe (from an old copy of Joy of Cooking, as the newest editions have dropped many of the preserve recipes) and the necessary experience (years of jam making) to make it happen. It was simple: ingredients of plums, sugar and water. And no special equipment was required.
We started by washing the fruit (4 kg) and sterilizing some jars (we used boiling water; placing the jars in a 250 F oven for 30 minutes is another approach). We then put the plums into a heavy sauce pan, poured in water until we could see the water through the top plum layer, then cooked them over medium heat until they had softened.
The next step was to press them through a strainer. For maximum pulp extraction, we chose the one below which had relatively large holes.
Then, we added some of the cooking water to the plums to achieve the appropriate consistency, and combined four cups of this mixture and three cups of white sugar in a heavy sauce pan. We turned up the heat, and brought the mixture to a boil.
The heat level in the picture above was a bit too high. We lowered the heat, and let the mixture bubble for a while, until it was “right.” Although it is possible to use a thermometer to determine when the mixture is ready, my thermometer was not the right shape to give us valid readings (and is also probably out of calibration). This is where experience (which my neighbor provided) can save the day. If you don’t have experience, The Joy of Cooking and other books offer tricks to identify when the mixture is right, generally involving spoons or plates and the freezer. And if you stop cooking too soon and the mixture doesn’t set, you will have an outstanding sauce for ice cream or pound cake (or perhaps even an ingredient for cocktails).
When the mixture was done cooking, we poured them into jars, screwed on the tops, and started to think about toast.
The backyard plums aren’t very exciting when fresh, but after being ‘jammed,’ their flavor was transformed into a complex confection with flavors of plum, rhubarb, strawberry, and cherry. Flavors I’ll enjoy for many months to come.
Indexed under Ingredients