End of the plums in NY state. Often, as fall approaches, I long to live in Northern California. My aunt sends me pictures of what they are picking in their garden and off their fruit trees, I can only answer “jealous” (thankfully my cousin in Hawaii doesn’t do this to me too). My grandparents used to make pomegranate jam from their trees, and plum, apricot, orange marmalade, fig. Olives. So when the abundance of summer here in NY is over, I’m ready to go. Goodness, their ‘winter garden’ is stuff I grow in spring and fall, some of it in summer too! Novella Carpenter of Ghost Town Farm, lives in No Cal. She took this summer off of growing, it’s too hot and challenging. I’d like that. The canning season would be longer.
Back to plums. In my effort to small batch process, by this I mean make smaller batches, buy 4 lbs at a time instead of my usual 12 (except the 1/2 bushel of peaches, and tomatoes, oh, and rhubarb, I have about 16 lbs in the freezer). For jam it’s best to work small. At times this means you’ll have only 4 1/2 pint jars, it’s okay, gives you more variety in the pantry, and a chance to try out new recipes with out committing your life savings and entire kitchen to one fruit. If you want to double a recipe, I suggest having 2 pots going at once, the less jam in the pot, the surer a set will be.
I made plum nectarine jam with a class this summer, it was good, I followed a recipe, perhaps I’ll try it again with much less sugar.. I tend to prefer single fruit jams and jellies with an additional flavor, like a spice, vanilla, lavender, booze. The local red plums were beautiful and sweet, I wanted them on their own, with a hint of….something. I let the fruit start cooking down, the aroma tells me what it wants, this is when I search through my mass of spices, look in the liquor cabinet, meditate over the flavor. What ever it takes.
This is a unique flavored jam, happy with PB on toast and equally terrific spread on tart dough with caramelized onions and goat cheese.
Plum Rum Jam
4 lbs Plums, I used red, you could use a mix of varieties. You can let the fruit macerate with the sugar for a few hours or over night, if you wish, I always do.
4 cups sugar, organic if you can
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup dark rum
pinch of salt (if desired)
Cut washed plums in half, pit, add to stock pot with sugar and lemon juice over medium heat, bring to a boil. Stir frequently to avoid burning, once fruit begins to break down use a potato masher to help it along. Continue the stirring /mashing process until it’s all a nicely broken down and starting to thicken. Cook until it reaches 220 on a thermometer, or has set using the frozen spoons/ plate test. 25-30 minutes. Then add rum and tiny pinch of salt, it adds a boost to the alcohol flavour.
Ladle into your readied jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space, place in boiling water bath to process for 10 minutes. Turn heat off, leave lid on and let jars rest for 5 minutes more, this ensures a good seal. Remove jars, lifting straight up and out of pot, to a dish towel in a protected place you can leave the jars for 12-24 hours, after which, check for seal, remove rings and wipe down jars.