Saturday, August 26, 2006

SHF#22: Plum Jam

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.

Plum Jam
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.