Monday, August 30, 2010

17. Yellow Plum Jam

Note: Follow just the bold text if you want the short version, without all 'The Rest' -- LOL!

Picked a big pile of yellow plums this weekend, and since the elderberry jam was such a disgusting, revolting disaster (taste-wise), I want to make some successful jam before summer summer break ended. Here we go . . .

After removing darkish spots (for appearance sake) and pits, simmer 1 kg of cut-up plums in 250 ml of water until skins have softened (10-ish minutes).

Add 1 kg of sugar, and bring back to a simmer, stirring as you dissolving the sugar. Continue to cook a further 10-15 minutes.

I had a pretty good idea that since my plums were on the less-ripe side, I wouldn't need pectin, but I added a packet anyway, to be safe. But then, while absent-mindedly stirring and waiting, I was looking over the packages of sugar and pectin and noticed that the 'Jam Sugar' I bought is called that not because it dissolves nicely in jam (that was my guess), but because . . . it has pectin in it already! Okay, so this will really set up well, I guess?

You can tell I don't generally cook with such things, can't you? I grew up in the days of single-item ingredients (none of this self-rising flour, because what do you do when you need 'normal' flour for something, like browning the beef in boeuf bourguignon? I guess you keep two kinds of flour in the house? Because surely, it's too complicated to have only normal flour and then add baking powder to it, right?

I don't even think we have sugar with the pectin already in it, in the U.S. Anyone seen or heard of it?? Like the rest of Europe (and I have witnesses!), mixes and convenience foods are common. In Holland, they take mixes to the next level -- you don't even add eggs and such! It's all in a packet, complete, so you just open it up, pour it into a pan, and bake the cake. Yup. I kid you not. Even America hasn't gone that far (have they?).

Okay, live and learn (regarding the sugar with pectin already in it), and then vow to pay better attention the next time. And don't use any leftover 'jam' sugar in a cake or muffins, or a cup of tea.

So, back to the jam . . . it passed the 'cold-plate-test', and so was put into it's steriilsed jars (after I removed the foam), sealed with paraffin, and lids put on.

There's another huge difference, too, that I just can't trust -- the method here of sealing the jams. They sell these packets of waxed-paper discs, and larger cellophane discs, and rubber bands. When you've got the jam in the jars, you're supposed to put the piece of waxed paper on top of the jam, then wet one of the cellophane discs, put it over the top, add a rubber band, and that's it. The package says that the cellophane will shrink, tighten, and seal. I'll start off with the fact that the circles don't just magically fit every jam jar -- they only come in two sizes, and they large one didn't fit the jars I bought (far too small). So you have this big gap around the edge of the wax paper. And I tried using one on a smaller jar, but it won't lie flat, so you have edges bunched up, not making contact with the jam. Neither method seems like you'd get an effective seal. So I spooned melted paraffin over the top, 1/8" thick, as I learned years back from my Ball Blue Book (canning and preserving), and then sealed my jars, some with lids, and those without, with the cellophane. I think I don't quite dare to leave the cellophane ones on the shelf, though, as I'd hate to lose all that good jam, so I'm going to store them in the back of the fridge.

So, long story not much longer, anyone have any other suggestions for me? Freezer jam, maybe, in little plastic containers? I don't remember how to do that -- do you just sterilise the containers and lids, not use paraffin, then close them up and freeze them?

Oh, this has become a book, hasn't it? Sorry.

Oh, one last thing, which is about jam-making memories of my mother. She was amazing in the house and kitchen, and that included making preserves every summer. I of course have a vivid image in my mind of all those clean, neat beautiful jars lined up across the back of the counter, cooking, and the sweet fruity smell filling the house, but beyond that, the memory of the 'foam.' When the jam finishes cooking, before you put it in jars, you of course have to remove the foam. She always skimmed that off onto a large plate, and let us kids sit at the table with a piece of white bread each, and spoon it onto our bread, and eat it. After all, it's just fruit and sugar, just like the jam. (I hate that recipes I've seen online call it the 'scum!' Scum?!? It's foamy jam. Scum is in your bathtub drain, not in a pot of gorgeous plums and sugar. Please, let's not use that word in our jam-making, okay? There's no 'scum in my kitchen, that much I'll promise you!)

Oh, I guess that wasn't the very last thing . . .

At our house, there were always a few odd little jars, when there wasn't enough jam left to make another full jar. Mom always saved those odd jars, knowing she could use them for putting up the last spoonfuls of whatever she was preserving. I did the same today, as you'll see below, using everything from egg cups to tiny glass chocolate-souffle dishes. I'll pass those along to a few friends -- they're just enough for your morning toast.

Okay, that's enough jam talk . . . I have to get the laundry in, do the ironing, get to Waitrose, and try to re-do some gyros pics (they have disappeared from my camera).

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