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We had a few unwelcome visitors through the spring, like ants and aphids, but we managed to win the battles and by midsummer the tree was laden with good sized plums. But, they were still green and relatively hard, so I pretended to wait patiently (e.g. checking the fruit daily) until finally one afternoon when I couldn't wait any longer, I picked one off the tree and bit in to it….and it was perfect! Wonderfully crisp and tart but sweet at the same time.
After many hours on the internet, I determined that it was a Greengage plum, which I discovered are best picked when slightly hard. Great! But now what?! The tree was heavy with fruit – far more than we could ever eat, I felt like the whole tree had become ripe overnight and now I had kilograms of plums on my hands.
So with a slight sense of panic, I ran outside with my harvesting basket. I soon returned - basket over flowing with little green gems.
Besides eating plums for every meal, I decided the best use for my bounty was jam. I must confess, I had never made jam before, and looking back now, I made some a lot of rookie mistakes. So you will see things in the photos, that aren’t recommend - but live and learn right?
My (first) mistake was the jars. You really should to use the jars with the 2 part snap lids (also called band and dome lids). This ensures an airtight seal and stops your jam from spoiling. I used jars with regular screw-top lids, and once I learnt my precious jam was at risk of spoiling I put the remaining jars in the freezer, just as a precaution.
Mistake number two was when sterilizing and processing the jars, I placed them directly on the bottom of a pot of boiling water, however by doing this you run the risk of them breaking. I luckily made it through with no breaks, but is best to place a rack on the bottom of the pot. You can buy a special canning rack, but apparently you can also just place a folded up tea towel in the bottom of the pot to act as a buffer between your jars and the direct heat.
As I was searching the perfect jam recipe, I found a lot of variance in the sugar to fruit ratio. I went with the leanest of calculations: half and as much sugar as fruit (eg 2 pounds of fruit = 1 pound of sugar); resulting in a wonderfully tart and tangy jam with just the right amount of sweet.
Despite all my mistakes, I am very, very happy with the result!
Besides being a regular around our breakfast table, I often serve this jam as part of an antipasto platter as it pairs wonderfully with creamy cheeses like brie or camembert. Also, a dollop over vanilla bean ice-cream...divine!
Wash and halve the plums, don't worry about removing the stones, they will rise to the top whilst cooking. Cut out any bruised or damaged fruit to avoid the jam from spoiling.
Combine your fruit, lemon juice and sugar in the large pot. Stir well and leave to stand for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally. It will look quite dry in the beginning but the sugar and the lemon will naturally start to draw out the water from the fruit and after one hour you will have a wonderfully thick syrupy mixture.
Cut the vanilla pods open and scrap out all the seeds, add both the seeds and the empty pods to the fruit mixture and place over a medium heat, stirring occasionally. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a slow simmer until the mixture reaches the desired consistency.
Because plums are naturally very high in pectin, you do not need to add a setting agent. To make sure that the jam is ready, place a small amount on a saucer and let cool. If it is still too runny, cook for a little longer, if not remove from heat, scoop out the vanilla pods and plum stones and place in sterilized jars.
If you want to ensure the shelf life of your jam, process for 10 mins in boiling water or freeze; otherwise, throw it in the fridge and I guarantee it won't last long!
For more of my recent kitchen adventures, check out my blog www.roamyourwayhome.com