I have been a fruit preserving fool lately – I have sixteen jars of homemade jams and butters on my basement shelves. Count them: sixteen! I am gloating just a bit over my bounty, but making jam brings out the squirrel burying nuts for the winter in me. In the past few weeks have made two batches of peach butter, three batches of plum jam and a batch of peach sorbet. I am standing by the sorbet as a method of preserving the fruit, even though it didn’t go into a jar. It will certainly keep longer in the freezer than the peaches were going to keep on the counter or the fridge.
Sadly, the peach sorbet isn’t all it should be, so I will have to do more experiments with that during next summer’s peach season before I will have a recipe for it. But the plum jam is a keeper. Ruby red, tart and sweet, thick and syrupy – everything I want in a jam.
I love how I can take purplish black plums that have yellow flesh and cook them to make beautiful red jam. And I love how the skins of the plums provide all the pectin I need to get the jam to jell. And I love how the plums were sweet enough that they only needed a touch of sugar to be sweet enough for me. Can you tell I love my plum jam?
If you have never cooked plums before, you will be amazed at the transformation they undergo upon cooking. They go from little cubes of juicy fruit to a bubbling mass of thick, syrupy lusciousness in just over an hour. The fresh juiciness of the fruit concentrates and intensifies when you cook them, making a jam that is plum to the nth degree.
I cut my plums into very small dice, because I wanted the finished product to have only a little texture. I didn’t want pieces of plums in the jam. If you like larger pieces and more texture, you can leave your chunks of plum bigger. Be sure to cook the jam long enough, unless you would prefer more of a syrupy sauce. I had to cook mine for over an hour, but it was mostly unattended cooking. I set the timer for 15-minute intervals to stir the jam. The rest of the time I was doing other things in the kitchen.
Get cooking before plums disappear from the grocery store. Already the local produce section is moving from tomatoes and corn to pumpkins and apples. Grab your plums while you can.
From The Cook’s Life
Makes about 1 pint jam
5-6 large plums, red, purple or black preferred (about 2 pounds)
½-¾ cup sugar, approximately
¼ cup lime or lemon juice (juice of 1 lime or 1 small lemon)
Wash the plums really well. Cut plums in half and remove the pits. Don’t peel the plums. Dice plums into small cubes.
Combine plums, ½ cup sugar and juice in a 3-quart pot. Cover and bring to a boil over medium high heat. The plums will produce juice – this is what you want. Once plums boil, reduce heat to medium and uncover the pot. Stir the plums and make sure they aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Cook the plums over medium to medium low heat until they are reduced by almost half – 45-90 minutes. The cubes will cook down into a syrupy, thick mass. The mixture will turn a beautiful ruby red or purple from the skins. You may have to lower the heat as the plums cook down, but try to maintain a slow, bubbling boil.
Once the jam is reduced somewhat, taste it for sweetness – after waiting for a spoonful to cool. Really. It is hotter than you think. If it is too tart for your tastes, add up to a ¼ cup more sugar. Stir to dissolve. Taste again for sweetness and adjust if necessary.
When the jam is done, it will fall off a spoon in a sheet instead of individual drops. You can also spoon a teaspoon of jam onto a clean plate, let it cool for several minutes, and then draw your finger through it. Your finger should leave a trail that only slowly closes up, if at all. But relax. It is jam. The worst thing that can happen if you don’t cook it long enough is you will get thinner plum jam.
When the plums are cooked, transfer the hot jam to hot jars if canning the mixture. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes. See my tutorial on canning for complete directions on canning jam.
If you aren’t canning the jam, store it in the fridge for up to two weeks. Freeze it for longer storage.