This is Marie, contributing an article about jam. Jam has occupied a fairly prominent place in my summer, to the extent that our easily embarrassed teenager has decided to become mortified about the number of jars in storage. She claims to be alarmed that we could never eat that much jam. First, much of it has been all along intended for gifts, including a good many that went out to friends for taste testing; and second, I can eat an astonishing amount of jam. Thirdly, if it’s at all important, some got diverted to a yard sale.
However, aside from a somewhat tentative article about marmalade earlier this summer, you have not been privy to the details of my obsession. A good bit of this jam frenzy comes from a growing and rather passionate affair I have developed with the Buford Highway Farmers Market. They have an astonishing amount and variety of produce, and it makes my eyes happy just to walk around and look at things. Also they have a sale table on which one can find 5-lb bags of whatever is being cleared out, for between $.49 to $2.99.
Early this summer, just after successfully processing strawberry jam, I encountered a $2 bag of golden kiwi, brought it home, and decided that this jam thing was just the bomb and needed to continue. The full price items are often still pretty cheap. Once they had ORGANIC apricots for under $1.50 a pound. Even if they didn’t have intriguing and wonderful things like dragon fruit, mangosteen, and forty or fifty kinds of pepper, I’d have to go back for those kinds of deals. And on top of that, my local farm stand store has had beautiful cull peaches in the perfect stage of ripeness, just needing bruises to be cut off for delicious jams and pies.
So I have a nice variety of jams in storage. Blueberry lemon, white nectarine, apricot, kiwi lime, “dragon egg” plum, and vast quantities of peach since that has been the easiest to come by in the volume and quality needed.
This particular batch of jam came via the BHFM sale table. They had bags that from a distance looked like limes, but on examination turned out to be “Emerald Beaut” plums. Those are a cross of apricot and plum that stay green on the outside, though the interior is a lovely delicate gold. The fruit is very sweet and a little crisp and I enjoyed quite a few before making jam with the remainder. The skins came off for the most part pretty well with blanching. I cut the plums in quarters and put 7 cups in a closed container into the fridge with 1/2 cup of sugar to macerate for a few hours. The container was full to the brim to have the least amount of air touching the fruit, and it didn’t brown at all, though an awful lot of liquid came out. Then the plums went into a wide flat pan to simmer gently for a while (given frequent stirring) with two tablespoons of pectin and the juice of one lime. You would usually use lemon; I just happened to have lime handy. If you don’t like using pectin you can leave the skins on, as plums are a high pectin fruit, but the translucency of the final product would make the skin fragments a bit unsightly.
When the drips from the spoon started to thicken and the boil wouldn’t stir out, I added 3 cups of sugar (remember the half cup added earlier) brought it back to a boil and stirred the bubbling mixture for a minute with a potato masher, crushing any chunks of plum that hadn’t already dissolved. I sometimes use an oven mitt to stir at this stage, as the potato masher can splash and the boiling jam is very hot.
You can tell if the jam is going to set well if, after the pot is pulled from the stove and has stopped bubbling, you see faint wrinkles in the glossy surface when tilting the pot or gently moving a spoon through the jam. After verifying that those had appeared I skimmed off the foam and ladled the jam into clean hot jars to process in a hot water bath. Make sure to follow proper canning procedure if you want to put your jars on the shelf, but if you will be using the jam up immediately it can be placed in clean containers and refrigerated.
The final yield was 6 half pints of beautifully golden, translucent jam, and a stray extra couple of ounces that went into the fridge. If I had used the directions from the pectin packet, I would have cooked it less time, added more sugar, and gotten more jam, but I did it this way to cook off some of the water content and have a more concentrated flavor.
Of course, if you like a chunkier jam, just dice the plums more finely (with or without the skins as you desire), cook them less time and don’t mash them as I did. However, I am happy with my results. Every batch is a little different. Experiment and learn what works for you! Except for the canning rules. Bugs are sneaky and you want your jam to be safe.
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