A windfall, a bountiful creation to share ::::
Last month, my neighbor (the same one with the hydrangeas) had an explosion of plums, the first from that tree. Though they are small, these plums are full of flavor and sweet enough that the kids ate them off the tree like candy. I made jars of plum sauce to grace ice cream or yogurt, also for flavoring seltzer water and soaked chia for my packed lunch for work. I made a small batch of jam, the pectin ever so perfect gelling the flavorful mix of plums and fresh cardamom. My neighbor graciously gave me more and more fruit, at least 20 pounds. I wanted to jam them up quickly, fresh and bright, but with the expected throes of work and parenting, they ended up in the freezer for almost a month.
I am still inundated with these jewel-toned plums and risk losing my audience to my unapologetic and enthusiastic extols of stone fruit, posting recipes back to back. Don’t worry: I’ll space it out, dotting those pops of colorful flavor between posts of drab, tasty brown food or matte-finished oranges and greens. I’ve tweaked the jam recipe just a little for a better balance of the cardamom and plums together (my first go ended up with more of a menthol punch than I wanted). This recipe is based almost exactly off of the Serious Eats website from Kenji Lopez-Alt, with the addition of the fresh cardamom. The freshly-ground cardamom is imperative: the jam really does taste better with the fresh spice. The plums taste brighter with its addition. Someone else’s overwhelming windfall can be a bounty to share.
Now onto the flat of apricots I bought at the farmer’s market….
One year ago: sugar cookie dreg cookies
Two years ago: scallops with mexican corn salad (elote)
Three years ago: angel food cupcakes with mascarpone frosting
Based mostly on the wonderful recipe here: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2015/07/easy-homemade-plum-jam-recipe.html
- 6 pounds pitted black or elephant heart plums, cut into quarters (Elephant heart plums per the original recipe. I used an unknown variety, though they looked much like Santa Rosa plums.)
- 2 pounds granulated sugar
- 1½ tablespoons Pomona's Universal Pectin (Unless you have a lot of experience, don't try replacing this pectin with another off-the-shelf type like original Ball or SureJell -- they work differently.)*
- 2 tablespoons calcium water (see Pomona's pectin package for instructions -- you'll have extra to store for other jam-making)
- 1½ teaspoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon of freshly ground cardamom (Freshly ground is so much better than pre-ground! I popped open the pods and ground the bits in a spice grinder just before adding to the jam. A lovely aroma!)
- 4½ tablespoons lemon juice (fresh or not) -- Kenji suggests NOT adding the lemon juice as it can distract from the plum flavor. I've tried both ways and like the jam's flavor better without it.
- SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: - 2-3 metal spoons to freeze
- - A large, wide cooking pot (important, to help with evaporation during cooking)
- - A large ~16-quart pot to boil water (for the actual processing of the closed jars). It's also even better if you have a perforated steamer plate or canning jar cage to allow water circulation under the jars while processing. I used one from my very old rice cooker.
- - 5-7 12-ounce jam jars with two-piece sealing tops - I give a range of jars since it can be variable what you end up with depending on fruit juiciness and evaporation during cooking. This is called siphoning.
- Mix plums, sugar, and pectin in a large bowl or the pot you intend to cook the fruit in. Cover and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours.
- Place a couple metal spoons in the freezer (cereal spoons are fine). If not already in the pot, transfer plum mixture to a large, wide pot and stir in calcium water. The wide pot helps with evaporation in cooking and firming up the final jam.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent bottom scorching. You may need to simmer 15 minutes until plums are mostly softened, if using firmer plums. Mine were pretty soft already, so I simmered about 5 minutes.
- For a smoother jam and if fairly chunky despite the simmering, Kenji suggests using a food mill to mush up about half of the plums.
- After milling, smashing, or whatever, continue to cook until mixture starts to foam. Scrape off and discard foam with a metal spoon (I scraped foam into a bowl and ate it later). Stir in butter.
- Continue to cook, stirring occasionally to prevent bottom scorching, until foaming has subsided, about 15 minutes longer.
- While the jam is cooking, get another large pot, fill with water, and heat to boil for processing the jam jars later.
- Fill a small saucepan halfway with water and place jar caps (not the screwtop parts) in to warm over heat to almost boiling. This step softens the orange rim of the caps, helping the vacuum seal form.
- Add cardamom and lemon juice (if using).
- Cook while stirring more frequently, until jam is glossy and shiny, about 10 minutes longer.
- Kenji's advice to test for doneness, "spoon a small amount of jam onto one of the frozen spoons and return to freezer for 5 minutes. Remove from freezer and check. The jam is ready when it's spreadable, but not runny. Cook until this texture is reached." I've made this jam a few times now, and it's pretty spot on with testing and the right consistency.
- Transfer jam into washed and warm mason jars, filling them to leave ¼ inch to ½ inch headspace. Make sure the jar lips are free of liquid or jam (wipe with washcloth, if needed), put on top, and screw on other cap piece to fingertip tightness.
- Seal jars and process according to manufacturer's instructions. My instructions were to put sealed jars into a processing pot to immerse each underwater, and boil for 10 minutes. The displacement of the jars may force to remove some water; just make sure they are covered. Remove promptly and allow jars to cool completely, undisturbed on the counter. Listen for the gentle ping of the lids popping into vacuum.
- Use when cool. Store for up to a year at room temperature (if you used lemon juice). After opened, store in the fridge for up to about 1 month.