We have a plum tree in our backyard. The plums are small, not that nice to eat, but they make the best jam. Especially if there is a fair percentage of under ripe fruit. This makes the jam very tangy, slightly sour. It also sets really well due to the high pectin content of the under ripe fruit . I think making jam is fairly easy, but I learnt as a child from my mother and grandmother.
Sometimes it doesn't go well, which can be blamed on the fruit or the weather or poor timing. My tips for success would be:
- Don't try to make too much at one time. 2 or 3 kilos of fruit at time, maximum.
- Make sure you have a big enough pan. The fruit and sugar should fill less than the bottom quarter of the pan.
- Plan ahead. Have ready jars, cellophane covers, scales and sugar.
- Child minding. I had someone else around to look after Grace during the critical bits. Hot sugar and toddlers do not mix. Although she was fascinated, close supervision was the order of the day.
- Do not attempt to do while you are doing something else. Jam making is not something that can be multi tasked.
- Help with de-stoning small fruit is good. If others like to eat the jam too, suggest that help with this task would be welcome. It took two of us about an hour to prepare the fruit. In good company, that goes quickly. On your own, it's a drag.
- Boiling sugar is hot. Use oven mitts or tea towells when moving the pan around. Wear sensible shoes.
2 to 3 kilos of plums
equal weight of white sugar (usually I prefer to cook with brown sugar, but I think jam works better with white sugar)
cellophane covers and elastic bands
big preserving pan
- Wash jars well in hot soapy water. Rinse well in water with vinegar. Air dry. Preheat oven.
- Wash and dry fruit.
- Remove stones. Some people prefer to make this type of jam with the stones in and skim at the end. I prefer to remove the stones and know that I won't have any on my toast.
- Weigh fruit progressively as you complete stoning a bowlful. Weigh out the same weight of sugar and add to pan. Keep going until the pan is quarter full of fruit and sugar, you have stoned three kilos of fruit or you think you have enough. Mix well.
- Place jars on a tray in a warm oven, with heat turned off.
- Place pot of jam on medium to low heat and stir regularly. Make sure you scrape along the bottom of the pan and into the corners. Do not let the sugar catch on the bottom of the pan or burn. Ensure all the sugar is melted.
- Once all the sugar has melted, turn the heat up. Stir frequently. It will froth up and then die down again, after boiling for 10 or fifteen minutes. Skim. (I'm not a big skimmer, I don't mind a little froth in my jam.)
- Start testing for set by spreading a little jam on a plate. When it has cooled, run your finger through the jam. The surface should wrinkle. Plum jam usually takes about twenty minutes. Towards the end, I take the pan off the heat while testing for set.
- Once the jam is ready remove from heat and get your jars out of the oven.
- Ready your cellophane covers and a little dish of water or vinegar.
- Pour jam into jars. I use a gravy boat, filling the gavy boat with a ladle.Then tipping fairly neatly into the jars, which I have spaced out on a tray.
- Clean any spilled bits around the neck of the jar. Moisten cellophane with water or vinegar, place over jar and secure with an elastic band. I like to do this while the jam is still hot. This causes the covers to tighten and seal well.
- After the jam is cool, clean any spilt bits from the outside of the jars and label. I've called this one Early plum, 2006.
- If you have the jar lids, place loosely over the cellophane before storing.
- Jam made this way will last several years. We finished the 2002 batch earlier this year.