Friday, September 13, 2013

Plum jam recipe

I have a million and one topics I'd like to blog about (and a tendency to exaggerate).

However, first priority is to provide a recipe. On Tuesday, I made some plum jam and posted a few photos on Facebook. Those of you who read this blog because of the eating disorder connection will probably understand the album title: "Just don't mention the Minnesota Study". Our garden produces a lot of fruit at this time of year and I seem to need to Preserve All The Things!

Remembering Jackie's question, I took lots of stage-by-stage photos when I made another batch of jam yesterday and will post them here, along with the recipe I came up with, mainly through improvisation caused by necessity, which happened to produce a wonderfully Christmassy jam.

First things first: jam-making is very easy.... but you need Stuff because otherwise you will have a pot full of jam and no way of storing it safely. So before you start chopping fruit or measuring sugar, check that you have 6-8 empty jam jars. These will need to be sterilised, either using the very hottest dishwasher cycle, boiling water or another method (plenty can be found online via google).

You'll also need the paraphernalia for sealing the pots. My favourite method is cellophane circles because I can see that they are safely sealed. These are available to buy, usually in packs with the waxed discs to sit on top of the jam, elastic bands and labels. 
Something I wish I'd bought sooner is the jam funnel. It ensures that the jam gets into the jar without any dripping down the sides. If you don't have a funnel, you'll need to make sure that the drippy bits are cleaned before the jam is stored because otherwise they could make a nice home for mould (ick). 
The other job to do before you start is to put a saucer or small dish in the freezer. This may sound like a bizarre thing to do but it will make it easy to check that your jam has set once it's been cooking on the stove for a while. 

Now we've sorted all of those things out, it's time for ingredients!
1.5 kg plums
750g granulated sugar
250g soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
Juice of half a lemon

Pop them all into your large pot and stir. Then leave for 30 minutes or so, until the juice from the plums has dissolved the sugar. It will look like this, simply from sitting there on its own without being heated:

Next, turn on the hob and heat the plum mixture up to boiling point.  Allow it to boil for about 10 minutes before turning it down to a simmer.
A tip: don't go to sit in another room to watch the start of the Bake-Off while waiting for boiling point to be reached. There is a possibility that you might return to the kitchen to find jammy mess covering the hob....

I won't give a specific time for the simmering because mine took such a vastly different time from other recipes I've read that I think that the time depends on your fruit, your hob and other factors that can't be predicted. Essentially, the shortest time I've seen in a recipe is 30 minutes of simmering. Mine took 1.5-2 hours.

When your jam looks like the photo above, go to the freezer and retrieve your saucer. With a teaspoon, take a blob of jam from the pot, drop it on the frozen saucer and leave it for about a minute. After the minute has passed, prod the blob of jam with your finger. If the jam is ready, it will have formed a "skin" and have a jam-like consistency to the touch. If it's still runny, you need to let it simmer for a while longer. (and you'll probably want to put another saucer in the freezer so that you can test again in a few minutes).

To preserve the jam safely, you will seal hot jam in hot jars. If you have used the dishwasher method, you open the dishwasher door only at the moment when you are ready to bottle the jam. Sterilise your ladle and jam funnel with boiled water from the kettle. Pop the funnel in your first jar and ladle some jam in, stopping about 1cm/half inch from the top of the jar. 
Put a wax disc on top of the jam (wax side down). Wet one side of the cellophane and place the wet side over the jar opening. Seal the cellophane with one or two elastic bands. 
Repeat this process until all of your jam is in all of the jars!

If you are planning to give the jam as gifts, or even to help you remember yourself, write the date that the jam was made on a label. 
The sheer Christmassy-ness of this jam, caused by me accidentally adding more cinnamon that I'd planned and needing to use some soft brown sugar (I didn't have enough granulated sugar in when I made the first batch) gave me the idea of giving jars as Christmas presents, with the name LindyB's Christmas Sugar Plum jam. 

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