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June 18, 2009

BACKYARD PLUM JAM




BACKYARD PLUM JAM

I know summer has finally arrived when the June gloom lifts and the branches of my plum trees are heavy with purple fruit. I am blessed to have a prolific Santa Rosa plum tree in my back yard, and consider its existence a serious argument for living in Southern California. The fruit is a dark ruby red with a tart purple skin. Every year I put up copious amounts of plum preserves, jams and sauces eagerly awaited by family and friends.

When working in large quantities, as one does from time to time, the rules are different but can apply to almost any fruit. Sometimes the amount of fruit one has is daunting. You don’t want it to go to waste, but you can’t imagine canning all of it at once. This method, employing the freezer, allows you to preserve the harvest and then can at your leisure.

You throw the fruit in the pot with water and a little bit of alcohol, rum or port are nice, and cook until the fruit is just cooked through, 15-20 minutes (depending on the quantity). This produces what I call the JAM JUICE or JAM STOCK. At this point you can either freeze some, or all of it to work with later, or you can continue preserving. I put up a number of different plum products, so I like to freeze the JAM STOCK in multiple containers, providing me the option of working in small batches. I usually freeze in 8-cup increments.

Next you measure out the JAM STOCK into a clean preserving pot and add 3/4-cup sugar for every cup of stock. At this point you can add any flavors to the jam, a few slices of ginger or some cardamom pods are nice(in a tea ball or cheese cloth).
I have used this method successfully with peaches and cherries. Here are the basic rules, but remember, no two harvests of fruit are ever the same, so trust your palate to adjust the sugar or liquid as needed.


BACKYARD PLUM JAM


4 lbs Santa Rosa plums

1 cup water

1 cup rum or port

Wash stem and pit the fruit. Place in a preserving pan and cook until the fruit is cooked through and the alcohol is cooked off, 15-20 minutes. If you are doing a larger quantity may need to need to adjust the time accordingly.
Freeze or continue canning.

Measure the JAM STOCK into a clean preserving pan adding ¾ cup sugar for every cup of stock.
Add any desired flavors to the pot at this point.

Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat stirring and skimming as needed. When the jam stops producing foam, and the boil slows a bit, start watching it more carefully. Check the set. Fill and process prepared sterilized jars.

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