Plum jam. One of life’s greatest pleasures, at least in my book. Deep rich fruit flavor with a touch of sourness to balance the sweet. Perfect spread on toast or a bagel, or if you’re like me, eaten straight out of the jar with a spoon!
The Artist and I are incredibly lucky. His big Italian family has made jams and jellies for decades, passing the skills and traditions down from one generation to the next. This was one thing my family didn’t make, so I was thrilled to learn from the master, my father-in-law.
The other thing my father-in-law has is a lovely tall plum tree that produces fruit beyond compare. Fully tree-ripened, there is nothing better in the world. The skins slip right off and the fruit nearly falls off the pits making it super easy to cook down for jam. Much less work than store bought that aren’t fully ripe.
I made a batch of plum jam about 5 years ago, the last time the tree had a lot of fruit on it. The intervening years we had the worst drought in our state’s history, making it difficult to give the tree enough water to produce much fruit. After the incredible winter we had last year, the trees are happy, our farmers’ markets are packed, all our fruit trees are blooming, and the harvests are bountiful again.
I followed the simple directions inside the box of Sure-Jell pectin and it cooked exactly the way it was supposed to. I borrowed a trick I learned from Jamie Schler, the owner/resident jam maker of Hotel Diderot in Chinon, France. We had the opportunity to visit her last year and watch as she made a batch of one of her famous jams.
Instead of ladling the boiling jam straight into the jars (which usually results in my making a huge mess), she puts it into a large liquid measuring cup and then uses that to cleanly pour the jam into the jars. What an improvement!! We were so tidy that there were only a few drops to clean up when we were done! Thank you Jamie for the inspiration and a great new way to get the jam into jars!
And if you are visiting the Loire Valley, I urge you to stay at Hotel Diderot. It is charming and you’ll be welcomed by Jamie and her husband, as you relax in the enchanting hotel and darling town of Chinon, France. It is truly a dream place to visit!!
You can make jam or jelly out of nearly any fruit. Just follow the directions provided by the pectin maker or check out Punk Domestics, a site run by my friend Sean Timberlake, where people share their preserving recipes. Look out, you’ll be enthralled for hours if you’re not careful, LOL.
So, what flavor of jam are you going to make? Have fun, dive in!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
Have a pair of heavy gloves available to help you move the jars after filling. You’ll need to put the lids on tightly and then turn them upside down. This helps seal the lids, but those jars are screaming hot! The Artist used his work gloves and they were perfect. Also using a 4-cup angled measuring cup made filling the jars a snap!
Jams and jellies are naturally gluten-free!
- 6 cups pitted and chopped fruit (from about 4 lb fully ripe plums)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 box original Sure-Jell Fruit Pectin
- 1/2 tsp butter (to lessen foaming)
- 8 cups granulated sugar
- Prepare Jars: Bring a large canning pot, half-full with water, to a simmer. This pot of hot water will be used later on for the water bath. Wash canning jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in a bowl next to the stove. Let the jars stand in the hot water until ready to use. Drain jars well before filling. Alternately, once washed and dried, you can keep the jars and lids warm in a low oven on a baking sheet.
- Place a small plate into the freezer. You will use this to test the thickness of the jam. Place a triple layer of kitchen towels on your countertop. This is where you will set the filled jars.
- Prepare Fruit: Remove pits from plums. Do not peel (the peels add deep color). Finely chop or grind fruit. If the plums are small you can simply quarter them and use a food mill later. Place fruit in a large saucepan; the fruit should not fill more than about half of the volume of pan. Use two pans if needed. Add 1/2 cup water (1/4 to each pan if using two). Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 5 min.
- If you want a smoother jam, transfer the cooked fruit to a food mill set over a very large bowl. It will make it easy to separate and remove the bitter skins.
- Measure exactly 6 cups prepared fruit into a 6- or 8-qt. stockpot or large Dutch oven.
- Measure the sugar into a large bowl or an 8-cup measuring cup and set next to the stove
- Make Jam: Stir the pectin into the fruit, making sure it is fully dissolved. Add the butter to reduce foaming. Stirring constantly, bring this mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) over high heat. Slowly add the sugar, stirring constantly to be sure the sugar is fully dissolved. Return to the full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 min., stirring constantly. Remove pan from the heat.
- Skim off any foam from the surface with a metal spoon and discard.
- Check the thickness of a small amount of the cooked jam on the frozen plate. It should set up quickly with the cold. If it doesn't set, return the pot to the heat and cook for another 30 seconds; test again. When it reaches the right consistency on the plate, it is ready to pour into jars.
- Place the hot jars and lids on the stove next to the pot of jam. Use a jar lifter or heatproof work gloves to handle the jars. To make cleanup easier, you can work over a sheet of parchment to catch any drips.
- Fill Jars: Ladle the jam into an angled 4-cup measuring cup (it has the sharpest pouring spout), then carefully pour from there into the prepared jars, filling to within 1/8-inch of tops. Fill over the first thread. Wipe jar rims and threads with a damp cloth or paper towel. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands on tightly.
- Place jars upside down on towel-covered counter for 12 to 15 minutes, and then turn them upright. This will help set the seal of the lids.
- Water Bath: Place jars in an raised canning rack. Lower the rack into the canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches; add boiling water if needed.) Cover; bring water to a gentle boil and boil for 10 min.
- Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. You will hear the lids popping as each one seals. After the jars cool, check seals by pressing the middles of the lids with your finger. (If lid springs back, the jar is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)
- Sealed jars are shelf-stable for about 1 year. Once you have opened a jar, keep it in the refrigerator and use it within a couple of weeks if possible.
- Yield: About 10 (1-cup) jars
Create a New Tradition Today!
Welcome! If you ever need any entertaining or cooking advice, need to alter a recipe for gluten-free, or want recipe suggestions, don’t hesitate to ask. Unauthorized use, distribution, and/or duplication of proprietary material from The Heritage Cook without prior approval is prohibited. If you have any questions or would like permission, please contact me. The suggestions here are not intended as dietary advice or as a substitute for consulting a dietician, physician, or other medical professional. Please see the Disclaimers page for additional details. Thanks for visiting The Heritage Cook!