Monday, August 21, 2017

Cooking - even when you mess up, it's often still yummy (Plum Jam)

Plum jam is a favorite of mine yet I've never made it. Well, actually I made it once, under the supervision of my Grandmother when she showed me how to make her version. Unfortunately her version was a freezer jam and my freezer is stuffed full at the moment. So I figured I'd just whip up a canned jam instead. Easy, right?

I used the instructions in the Sure-jell pectin package. Seemed pretty straightforward, chop the plums, cook with a bit of water, measure out the exact amount of fruit, add the pectin, boil hard, add the sugar, boil hard again, waterbath can, you're done.

My first problem was with "chop the plums". Their definition of a fine chop and mine differ. Unfortunately, mine wasn't fine enough so my pieces of plum failed to cook down in the 5 minutes specified. That's okay, a recipe at this stage is just a suggestion, so I cooked a bit longer to break them down. Since I now needed to measure out exactly six cups of fruit I realized that my chop size was going to impact how full my measuring cup actually got. A larger chop means less fruit to fill it (at this point I degenerated to a mental rant about canning recipes failing to specify weights). I decided to just pack the fruit into the cup and hope for the best. I had a lot of fruit left in the pan but I'd figure out something to with it later.

Added the pectin and started cooking to a rolling boil. My fruit is still too chunky without enough liquid to actually roll. It got there eventually but boy did it take a long time to release enough juice. In the meantime I kept mashing the plums with my spoon to help things along. I seriously thought about taking my immersion blender to it (and I probably should have) but I'd reached that stubborn stage where you just want to see how it all works out.

Added the sugar and finally got enough liquid so now things are progressing more smoothly. Rolling boil achieved, timed, and now ready to can.

The actual canning went very smoothly. I skimmed off the foam, filled the hot jars, processed, and everything sealed as it should. My yield, most likely because I had less fruit than I should was only eight cups, not ten. The jam was actually solidifying while I filled the jars (again, probably due to my pectin to fruit ratio) so no problem with set. The bit of extra jam left over was mixed in with the foam and stuck in the refrigerator. I'm happy to say it was fantastic lavishly spread on our breakfast toast.

Oh, and the extra cooked plums? Keep in mind that they were just barely cooked (10 minutes in the pot) and still quite firm. I spread them in a small baking dish, stirred in some cardamon scented sugar, topped with a sugar/flour/butter mixture and baked as a Plum Crisp. Surprisingly good.

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