When I heard that the theme of this month’s Sugar High Friday event, hosted by Delicious Days, was to make jam, jelly or some other type of preserves with fresh summer fruits, I was momentarily disappointed. I love jam, but I don’t love the huge amount of work that goes into making it, and I certainly had no intention of standing around and sterilizing jars in 100F+ weather when I can buy perfectly good jams.
Then I saw the blackberry jam post on Meathenge and realized that I didn’t have to go through that whole procedure. I could make a single batch of jam, about enough for a jar full, and would not have to think twice about whether my jars were the right type.
This got me excited again, and I started to mull over my fruit options. My mind was made up when I saw some lovely plums at the market.
My jam is very simple. Plums have quite a bit of natural pectin – the stuff that makes jam and other preserves gel – so I did not have to add any. The fruit was sweet to begin with, so I added only a minimal amount of sugar and a touch of vanilla. The one thing that you do need is a candy thermometer because you must cook the jam until it gets up to just about 220 degrees – any higher than that and it will scorch, but if you don’t cook it enough it won’t thicken properly. The jam tastes great and – really – is very easy. I like the single batch size so I can use it up and switch to another flavor when I run out, rather than having a dozen jars of the same kind in my cabinet.
About 1 1/2 lbs plums, ripe
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
Bring about 3-4 inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan on the stove. Cut a shallow X in the bottom of each plum, submerge in the simmering water for about 30 seconds to loosen the peel, then remove it while running the plum under cool water (so you don’t burn your fingers). You may have to work a few plums at a time.
Cut plums into small chunks and remove pits.
Put sugar and water into a large saucepan and cook until dissolved. Add in plums, vanilla and a candy thermometer and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook until it reaches 220F.
Pour into a clean glass container and store, covered, in the fridge to be eaten on toast, etc.
Note: I like my jam with a few bits of fruit, but you can finely dice the plums if you prefer.
CathyAugust 26, 2006
Nic – that sounds delicious and I love the idea of making a small batch. How much does this make – a pint? When eating plums I especially like the skins because that’s where they’re tangiest. Do you think it would be a bad idea to leave the skins on for the jam? I suppose after they’re cooked that long they might curl up like tomato skins or something…
RaineyAugust 26, 2006
If you ever feel like doing a larger batch, your dishwasher does a great job of sanitizing. Use a “sani” cycle if you’ve got one and you can always put it on a second “dry” cycle if you want it to stay hot longer to synch up with the fruit prep. Rubber gaskets and/or lids with composition sealer, tho, need to be in a pot of simmering water.
Secondly, if you have an outdoor grill with a burner, outside is a wonderful place for fruit prep and a water bath in the hot months when you want a cool kitchen but all that fruit is soooo ripe and soooo available.
NicAugust 26, 2006
Cathy – I would say that it makes about 1 1/2 cups or so, maybe a large jar’s worth. It keeps for a couple of weeks in the frige, just like most jams do once they’ve been opened.
I don’t know about the skins. I feel like they might become sort of tough when cooked. Maybe you could add some dried tart cherries to the plums to make it a bit sharper, instead.
Rainey – Thanks for the tips. I’ll definitely keep the dishwasher thing in mind if I ever decide to make up a huge batch of jam and need several jars.
EllieAugust 27, 2006
This looks fantastic, and I absolutely agree, smaller batches are nicer as you’re not stuck with one flavour for weeks/months on end.
moonablazeAugust 28, 2006
well, I just made a half-batch of this (I had 4 wonderful but over-ripe plums from the farmer’s market) using vanilla sugar and omitting the extract. it tastes great, but not very plumy, kinda like a mixed-fruit jam. oh well, there’s only about 3/4 of a cup of it.
ValerieAugust 28, 2006
Sounds like a great recipe! I’ve been wanting to get into preserving, but just haven’t had the time. I’ll put this recipe in my file to try, for sure!
CecileAugust 29, 2006
Sounds good… After reading this, I found some scuppernongs at Whole Foods, and “jellied them” with Riesling. Had that on buttermilk waffles, hmmm! I made too many jars and didn’t preserve them, so the girls at work have been enjoying the free jelly!
risingsunofnihonAugust 30, 2006
You have almost convinced me that I can just make a small batch of jam and forego the steamy sterilisation mess, but I think I’ll keep this recipe in reserve until the cooler weather blows in. Hopefully it won’t be before all of the lovely fruit is gone!