Sick or not, it’s been a busy week. I’m loving how the blog is motivating me. I’m particularly loving how many of you are following along with me on this journey. Your being here makes this whole thing that much better. My most humble thanks for lending me your time. After all, I know how busy you all are.
In-between the projects you’ve seen posted this week, I’ve been making jam. My poor plum tree was so out-of-control it was drooping to the ground. We trimmed it back….well….we basically bonsai-ed it. It’s terribly cute now, but, alas, we found very little fruit. I had told one of my neighbours to pick some of the fruit off it. Apparently they did….lots and lots of fruit. No worries though. My neighbour on the other side of the fence has a plum tree and he told me to take as much as I wanted. I told him I’d bring him jam. We’re both happy.
Jam is one of those funny things that seems to either work or not based upon some kind of celestial whim. One batch can be perfectly gooey and thick, while the next one the same day can be, well, pancake syrup. I know it’s all about the pectin, and whether or not there is enough in the fruit and whether or not you’ve cooked it enough to get it to gel, and whether or not you’ve cooked it so much you’ve passed gel-state and, of course, whether or not Cerridwen, Goddess of the Harvest, and therefore Goddess of Jam, chooses to smile upon you. I also know Cerridwen is a moody wench.
So, long story short, 3 batches later I’m batting 2 out of 3. Batch 3 got a box of good old store-bought pectin added at the last minute to rescue it. It’s all good.
So here’s my recipe for the most basic jam you can make. No added pectin, just cook cook cook. Give it a try. It’s easy. Just make a mess.
4 lbs. (1.8 kg) Italian Plums
1 1/2 (375 ml)cups of water
4 Tbsp. (60 ml) FRESH lemon juice (yes it matters that it’s fresh)
Peel of 1 lemon, pared off in one long strip
6 cups (1500 ml) granulated sugar
Yield: 8 250 ml jars or 8 half-pints.
Wash, pit, and chop plums. I quarter each half. Place into large, heavy-bottom stainless steel saucepan. Add water, lemon juice, lemon peel and sugar. Stir to dissolve. Bring to a boil then cook over medium heat, keeping bubbling, for 20 minutes, always stirring as often as necessary to keep it from sticking. You may add 1/2 teaspoon of butter or oil to keep the jam from foaming or skim foam as you go.
Check for gel after 20 minutes. To check for gel, place a spoonful of hot jam on a plate that’s been thoroughly refrigerated. Place in freezer until jam has reached room temperature and run your finger through the puddle. If the puddle doesn’t fill back in, you’ve reached gel stage. If it’s gelled, remove the peel and proceed. If it’s not gelled, keep cooking, checking for gel at 5-minute intervals.
When gelled, ladle into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/2″ (1 cm) of head space. Remove air bubbles using a non-metallic item (I use the handle of a wooden spoon) and re-adjust head-space if needed. Wipe rims of jars with hot water to ensure they’re clean. Top with a snap lid and twist on ring until it’s finger-tight. Do not over-tighten. Process in a canner with jars completely covered with boiling water for 15 minutes. If your altitude is above 3000 feet to 6000 feet, add 5 minutes to processing time. Let stand undisturbed 24 hours and check for seal. Snap lids pull downward in the middle if they’ve sealed. If you’re unsure of seal at all, refrigerate your jam and use quickly or re-process.
I’ve even made some labels for you. Just right-click them, copy and paste them onto the template for Avery shipping labels, available at avery.com or print them on card stock and cut them out, punch a hole in the corner, and tie them onto jars full of autumn goodness.
I’m off now to chop some veggies. I’ve already chopped cucumbers, beans, and peppers. I’m about to chop cauliflower. Can you guess what I’m making next? If you can, email me with your guess at firstname.lastname@example.org. If more than one person gets it right I’ll put the names in a hat and draw a winner. There’s even a prize….a yummy one….happy guessing!!