I recommend making jam from scratch, at least once. It’s really easy and it’s fun, providing you don’t burn yourself. Jam burns hurt.
Plum jam is my dad’s favourite jam. We used to have it on Christmas holidays at the beach. It’s best on freshly baked, still warm, thickly cut white bread. It’s also good on toasted rye bread with butter. I reckon, anyway. Oh, and you have to be on holidays.
I made this for Dad’s birthday recently. Unfortunately, he’d just returned from holidays, so I don’t know when he’ll eat it. I guess it depends on when the next holiday is scheduled. Easter, perhaps.
This recipe is from Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion. I halved the quantity and used jam setting sugar, which has pectin in it, because last time I made jam without adding pectin it didn’t set.
This made two Doritos salsa jars and two Maille mustard jars worth. I could work out how much that was in litres or whatnot, but it would involve getting up AND doing maths.
1 kg plums (about 12), washed
3 cups jam setting sugar
1 tbs lemon juice
cloth – Stephanie’s recipe said to use muslin but I couldn’t find any in the two minutes I was in the fabric shop, so I used calico and I don’t think it worked as well.
Halve and stone the plums.
Slice the plums roughly and put them in a bowl with the sugar. Stir well. Jam setting sugar kind of looks like it’s wet, it not quite white and it’s a bit clumpy. I don’t know what it would do to coffee, but it probably wouldn’t be nice.
Loosely wrap five of the stones in cloth and bash them with something hard (the recipe says a meat mallet, but I don’t have one, so I actually used some pliers because it was all I could find. We have a hammer, but for some reason I didn’t think of this…). You’re meant to be able to then extract the kernels, but I found this a bit difficult because the seeds were either still whole or smashed to bits, kernels included. I ended up cutting the seeds in half with the pliers. I think the kernels add a bit of richness and depth to the jam, but if you didn’t want to do this I don’t think it would really matter. Tie the kernels in cloth and bury them in the fruit. Cover the bowl and leave it overnight at room temperature.
The next day, tip the content of the bowl (including the kernels in cloth) into a saucepan and bring to the boil over a moderate heat. Stir occasionally, and scoop the froth off the top. Add lemon juice and simmer for about 25 minutes, or setting stage (around 105°C, if you have a thermometer). To test if the jam is at setting stage, place a white plate in the freezer until it’s chilled. Put a teaspoon of jam on the plate, and return it to the freezer for a minute. Take the plate out and run your finger through the jam. If it stays in two blobs, it’s at setting stage. In theory. My jam did this, but it was still a little underset, even with the pectin that’s in the jam setting sugar. I don’t think it really matters, runny jam isn’t the end of the world.
While the jam is bubbling away, you can sterilise the jars. This is my least favourite part of making jam, and I’m pretty sure I don’t do it very well. I just wash the jars thoroughly with hot soapy water and rinse them well. Then I stand them in the sink and fill them with boiling water. I leave them there until I can pour the water out without burning myself. Then I put them in a low oven to dry them off. The lids are easy – I just put them in a saucepan with water and boil them. I always halve the amount in jam recipes so I don’t have to sterilise as many jars. Plus, this made four reasonable sized jars of jam and I don’t know what to do with it all. What do I want with eight jars of jam?
When the jam is done, take it off the heat and let it settle for five minutes. Take the kernels in cloth out (using tongs). Place in a strainer and press so that all the liquid falls back into the saucepan. Pour the jam into the sterilised jars and put the lids on while it is still hot. The jars should also still be hot, or at least warm. I let the jars cool down on the bench and then store them in the pantry. When I open a jar I then store it in the fridge.