As is obvious by now, I love cooking. But there are certain types of cooking that I love the best. I find baking to be therapeutic and I delight in welcoming friends and family into our home to enjoy a cup of tea and a chat whilst devouring some freshly baked treats. I am deeply satisfied by slow cooking, putting a stew or sauce on the stove and watching it bubble away to become infinitely better than when it started.
And I love making jam.
In fact, I would say that I am addicted to making jam. Something about bottling the harvest into sweet little jars of goodness makes me very happy indeed.
Last year, at our old house, our plum tree just kept on giving. I made so much jam that we still have just over half a dozen jars in the pantry, and that’s after eating many (and I do mean many) a jar throughout the year. This year, although our fruit trees are still very young, we have been lucky to have been gifted many a kilo of fresh fruit. The first thought that comes to my mind when I lay my hands on those precious morsels of summer is, “I’m going to make (insert fruit) jam”.
So far this year I have bottled cherry and plum jam. We were given five kilos of the most beautiful, crimson cherries from a lovely lady who lives on the other side of our hills. When she called to offer them to us, we were shocked to learn that she had been struggling to give away her bounty! Without hesitation we took her up on her wonderful offer. And thus, the jamming for this year’s summer season began!
The next glut of fruit we received was from my mum and dad whose plum tree is ripe and ready. I decided to try a different recipe from the traditional 1:1 fruit to sugar ratio I usually use. Instead, I decided to try less sugar to fruit. I thought rather than it being overly sweet, it would showcase the plums themselves. It did exactly that and what we were left with was a pleasantly tart jam.
I enjoy both the traditional flavour of the 50/50 fruit to sugar as well as the lesser sugar jam so I have included both recipes here for you to try. They each offer something different, even though the same fruit is used.
The recipes are for 2kg of fruit, but just adjust proportionately, depending on the amount of plums you have. The method for each recipe is the same, so just change the ingredients, depending on what jam you would like to make.
Traditional Plum Jam
Makes approximately 6 medium sized jars
2kg plums, halved, seeds removed
Juice of 1 lemon
Reduced Sugar Jam
Makes approximately 5 medium sized jars
Juice of 1 lemon
Firstly, place a couple of small plates in the freezer. You will use these later on to test if your jam is set.
Place the plums and 1/3 cup of water in a very large, heavy based saucepan. Cook on a medium heat for 15-20 minutes, or until plums are very soft.
Add sugar and stir until it has all dissolved. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil, stirring often. Cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently. A white foam will appear on the surface of your jam as it is cooking, Gently skim off as much as you can as this will result in a clearer final product.
From 20 minutes onwards, check regularly to see if jam has reached ‘setting point’*, turning off the stove each time you test it to ensure you don’t overcook it. Once your jam is ready, pour into hot, sterilised jars** and seal immediately.
Jam will store in the pantry for a year (or even longer!) Make sure to refrigerate after opening to keep it fresh.
*How to check ‘Setting Point’ of jam:
Place a small amount of jam on a chilled plate from the freezer. Push your finger through the jam and watch to see if it ‘wrinkles’. When it does, your jam is ready. Alternatively, you can test with a thermometer. Jam will reach setting point at 104.2˚C.
**How to sterilise jars and lids
Preheat oven to 120˚C.
Wash jars and lids in warm soapy water. Put jars on a tray, right way up, and place in the warm oven for 10-15 minutes, removing from oven when ready for filling. DO NOT put the lids in the oven as the seal will melt.
Instead, sterilise lids by placing in a pot of cold water on the stove. Bring them to the boil for 5-10 minutes and then leave to dry on a clean tea towel. Make sure the rims of the lids and jars are clean and dry when you fill with jam to ensure they seal.