Late summer fruit – plums in jam

I love plums. You can turn them into so many delightful creations and there are so many types with beautiful colour variations of both the skin and the flesh.

This year my parent’s plum trees were laden with fruit and there seemed to be no birds around eating them. This left tons of them for jam, for stewing and for eating freshly picked off the tree. My mother always reminisces how my zio (uncle) Fidenzio (or as he was known, Fide) used to eat a whole small plum in one mouthful, stone included! Italians clearly have strong teeth and robust digestive systems.

There are a few ways that I make sure that I eat plums all year round. Firstly I love to stew them and put them in small containers in the freezer. I heat them up, add some pot-tub set yoghurt to make a delicious and healthy breakfast. I buy organic full-fat yoghurt because I love the natural taste and trust that it is made from happy cows roaming around a farm. When I stew blood plums, their streaky purple looks amazing swirled on the creamy yoghurt. The second way I use plums is in jam. Mamma makes jam as well and because she makes more than she and papa’ can eat in a year, I get a few jars through the year to add to mine. This way I can compare hers with mine and I can honestly say that you can’t tell the difference! It is her recipe after all…

You need to devote a few hours to making jam. It is possible to split the tasks of jam making into 2 days. On the first you chop up the fruit and add sugar and leave it overnight in a covered pot to rest. On the next day, you cook the mixture, make the jam and place it in sterilised jars. This makes the task more manageable. I don’t add purchased pectin to set the jam but use lemons instead. The pips contain a lot of pectin and this is enough to set the jam. A tip that mamma gave me about how to avoid the jam spoiling – add a layer of grappa to the top of the cold set jam. Apparently nothing can grow in the jam underneath as the grappa is so potent! This year I made jam with blood plums as there were so many on their trees.

Plum jam
850g sugar
1 kg of washed, pitted plums chopped into quarters or eighths (any type is fine)
2 large lemons, squeezed, seeds and pulp reserved
piece of muslin
kitchen string
sterilised jars
A pot/saucepan that is large enough so that the sugar/fruit combined only comes up half way
A couple of teaspoons for checking if the jam is set
A small plate, placed in the freezer, for checking if the jam is set

Turn the oven on low (100 degrees C) and place some clean dry jars and lids on an oven tray. They take about 15 minutes to sterilise, but you can keep them in the oven until you are ready to use them. Add the sugar to the chopped fruit in the pot and place on the stove at medium heat. Simmer for around 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Whilst the sugar is dissolving, squeeze the lemons and place the pulpy remains plus the seeds on a doubled over piece of muslin. Gather the corners of the muslin and make a little sack by tying the top tightly with the kitchen string. Leave the string long enough so that you can immerse the sack in the pot of fruit and have the string hanging over the edge of the pot (you could even tie it to the pot handle so that you don’t lose the sack in the pot). Boil the fruit mixture rapidly, stirring occasionally. It will boil up to the top of the pot so be careful it does not boil over. If it is boiling too much, remove from the heat for 30 seconds and then place on the stove again. Stir occasionally so that the fruit does not stick to the pot. Continue rapid boiling until setting point is reached. This takes at least 10 minutes but may take more. To make the thick plum jam in the photo below, it took me about 25 minutes of rapid boiling. To test for setting point, use a teaspoon to retrieve some jam and place it on the cold plate. If the jam is thickened on the plate, then you have reached setting point. If not, then place the plate back in the freezer and boil the jam for a few more minutes before re-testing. The amount of time that it takes to set depends on the amount of natural pectin in the the lemons and the amount of sugar. More lemons and more sugar will make the fruit mixture set faster, however this should be balanced with taste. Also you may like your jam more or less runny so the proportions and cooking times may be varied to suit your taste.

Once the jam is set, pour into sterilised jars. Cover the top of the jars with a piece of plastic wrap immediately and seal tightly. Place the lid on the jar. It will take several hours for them to cool. They will keep for six or more months in a cool place or even longer if you put a bit of grappa on top of the set jam!

As you can see, I like a lot of jam with my toast!

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