So, it turns out that the plum tree in the garden, which we wanted to cut because it looked very dead and took up a lot of space, actually gives delicious, I mean delicious, deep red plums.
So, what is one supposed to with nearly 25 pounds of plums?
- 1kg of plums pitted and cut into sixths.
- 500g (roughly) of sugar. I used vanillated sugar that I make by just putting used vanilla pods in sugar and letting them sit in there for a while.
- pectin powder.
- fresh lemon juice (a quarter to a half a lemon).
Cut the plums in sixths, remove the pits, put them in a bowl and weight them. At this point you should add the sugar (half the weight of your fruit minus some sugar to mix with the pectin the next day) and the lemon juice. Cover the bowl with a tight plastic wrap (it should not touch the fruits or sugar), put in the fridge overnight, the sugar will mostly dissolve.
The next day…
This is when I add the pectin. For the quantities of pectin, I’ll let you check on the package of the pectin you’re using, it really varies (I air on the side of less pectin rather than more because I like runny jams and you can always thicken the jam by cooking it a bit more). One thing though that is super important if you’re using dried pectin is to thoroughly mix the pectin powder with sugar before adding it to the fruit mixture. The first time I made jam with pectin I didn’t do that and instead I added the pectin straight into the mix which caused it to make little balls of gel, very annoying and unappetizing. Anyhow, once you’ve mixed the pectin into the sugar, add it into the bowl with the fruit and sugar.
Once the pectin’s been added, mix the fruits well, it’s likely there will be still crystalized sugar at the bottom and that’s fine, then transfer into a pot and start cooking on medium heat.
While the fruit is cooking you should sterilize the jars you’re going to be putting the jam into. This step is important if you’re planning to keep those jars out of the fridge/freezer. The way I usually do it is by taking the largest pot I have, putting water into it, bringing the water to a steady boil and putting the jars in there for a while (I’d say 30 minutes is good). This is by no means scientific but so far so good, my jams haven’t turned bad and I haven’t killed anyone (that I know of).
Now, while your jars are sterilizing, let’s look at the jam. The goal is to get the fruits to boil. It takes more or less time depending on the amount of fruit and many other factors but generally, it can take a fair amount of time.
Once the fruits have boiled steadily for a minute or so, comes the testing phase. This is where you can make up for the lack of pectin if necessary. The first time I read on how to test jam I was a bit confused. The way I do it is by putting a bit of jam (the size of half a hazelnut maybe) into a clean spoon. Don’t dip that spoon straight into the jam, use the wooden spoon you’re stirring the jam with to drop some onto the spoon. This avoids contamination and helps not put too much jam on the spoon. Then, I usually just gently blow on the jam in that spoon to cool it down. Once it’s at room temperature (roughly) angle the spoon to see how liquid the jam is. It should look like molasses, thick, and should very slowly flow down the spoon. If you’re happy with the consistency, lick the spoon clean and put it aside, I you’re not happy, lick the spoon clean and try again in 5 minutes!
Once you are happy with the consistency, comes the jarring. Be very careful when removing the jars from the pot of boiling water, it’s hot! If you have a funnel it makes the filling of the pots a lot easier. Fill the pots and leave a half inch free of jam, the with a clean paper towel, wipe the outside, inside and top of the jar to avoid having jam in between the lid and the jar (the seal has to be air tight). Once it’s clean, put the lid on, close tightly and drop the sealed jar back into the boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Repeat until you’ve put all the jam into jars.