Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Plum jam

I refuse to think it's fall yet, it's just late summer, right? It must be summer because we are still getting plenty of tomatoes and courgettes. But on the other side, I have to admit that the onions have been harvested as have the potatoes. And it's pouring with rain outside, and we don't sleep with the windows open anymore so maybe it's time to stop kidding myself and admit it it slowly turning into fall. I can't believe August is coming to an end. But the good thing with fall is that the produce keeps rolling in, it's time for figs and plums, and when they are done there are still the pears and apples to look forward to. This is our second harvest season in our home, and although I don't wish for big things in my life anymore, the one thing I do wish for is that there will be many more harvest seasons in this house. 

I don't think I've ever made my own jam before. In my mind it has always been a somewhat daunting task. However, we didn't use all of the plums I froze last year so I thought this year we should make something different from whatever our two (well, more like one and a half) plum tree produces. The Culinary Consultant's Dad gave us a jar of yummy plum jam last year, so I thought let's just give it a try and see what happens.

I googled plum jam and found this useful recipe for all sorts of jams on BBC good food. So that's what I followed, except I didn't put any butter on top of the jam because I found the idea a bit revolting. I wasn't sure whether you were supposed to peel the plums before making the jam, what we did was to put them in there with the skins on and then sieve the jam through a colander to remove the skins when it was done. I love that the jam got a beautiful pink colour, which I don't think it would have without the peel. It also gave the jam a slightly bitter flavour, which both of us liked (think along the lines of orange marmalade). I had enough plums to make one and a half times the original recipe, so we have a nice little collection of very randomly shaped jam jars in the fridge (I added the amounts I used in parenthesis in the recipe below). The original recipe says it makes about 1.2 litres, so my extended version should make about 1.8 litres. As our jars were all different sizes and shapes, it's a bit hard to confirm but I guess that's about right.

Plum jam (makes about 1.2 (1.8) litres):
900 g (1400 g) plums
150 ml (225 ml) water
900 g (1400 g) sugar

The howto:
Prepare your jam jars and lids. Wash them in hot, soapy water and rinse. Shake to remove excess water but don't towel dry. Place on a newspaper covered oven tray, making sure the jars don't touch each other. Put into a cold oven and leave to wait. Quarter your plums and remove the stones. Add water and bring to a gentle boil, cooking until fruit has softened, about 30-40 minutes.

Towards the end of the cooking time, turn the oven with the jars inside it to 120 degrees C. Make sure jars are at 120 degrees C at least 10 minutes, and until all water has evaporated from them.

When the fruit is soft, add sugar, and keep on low heat until dissolved. Bring to a rolling boil and cook until the jam has reached setting point (105 degrees). This should take about 10 minutes, although I left it cooking for a bit longer as it didn't feel like it had started to thicken at all at 10 minutes.

You can now transfer the jam into the sterile jars. I however sieved the jam through a colander to remove the peels, brought it back to a quick boil and then transferred to jars. Label and seal. I made little labels using my printer and some crafting stuff. The font is called Jane Austen and it's freely downloadable, it's just perfect for so many things including jam labels.

The verdict:
When we poured the jam into jars, it was still rather runny, and I wasn't sure it would set properly. But it did! Once it cooled off, it became the perfect jammy sticky consistency. It's so good that in one day we had already consumed half a jar. It's perfect on toast, and I am already dreaming of a plum-Victoria sponge cake. And to be fair, it's rather good just eaten with a spoon straight from the jar. I do think leaving the skins on the plums was a good ideas they added a bit of bitterness to the jam. It's not too sweet with the little added tanginess, and the flavour of the plums comes through perfectly. For a first attempt at jam making, I would say this exceeded all my expectations, and furthermore it was much less effort than I had imagined. Particularly as the Culinary Consultant cleaned up the mess we had made in the kitchen!

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