I have a giving tree.
It’s the plum tree in my side yard, the one I pass every day as I back out of and pull into the garage; the one with overgrown branches that I have to duck under every time I open the gate to take the dog for a walk; the one that was awkwardly pruned a few seasons back and remains lopsided because of it.
The tree has produced fruit almost every summer since we moved here more than 7 years ago. But for some reason (certainly no thanks to me) it has been especially generous this year, its branches laden with hundreds of dusky rose fruits. I’ve done nothing to encourage this proliferation; I haven’t fertilized and I haven’t sprayed. And, indeed, the plums are not large—some are as small as cherries—and many of them have imperfections.
But they are sweet, and their flesh is a spectacular saturated ruby color (I think they are Santa Rosas, but I’m not entirely sure). And they keep appearing, ripe and ready to pick, in spite of being under constant siege by birds and squirrels (and, occasionally, 15-year-old boys). I’m grateful for this tree, which throws its lopsided branches out over our yard, giving us blossoms in spring, and shade and privacy—and plums—in summer.
I did not want the plums that I picked to go to waste so I made jam, and I’d like to share the recipe with you. It’a a simple one. Plums are high in pectin so the jam sets easily, and because their skins are thin there is no need to peel them. The jam is sweet, but not too sweet, with lots of tart plum flavor, plus a good hit of citrus thanks to the addition of chopped up lemon peel. You can toss in a handful or two of blueberries if you like, which deepens the color and rounds out the fruit flavor.
Spread this deliciously tart jam on toast or scones; or use it as a filling for a jam crostata. You can use any variety of plums that you like. In fall, I use the small purple Italian prune plums.
- 2 pounds Santa Rosa or other red-fleshed plums
- 2 to 2 1/4 cups sugar
- Peel from 1 small lemon, coarsely chopped
- Freshly squeezed juice of 1 small lemon
Cut the plums in half and remove the pits. Cut each half into 4 pieces so that you have small chunks. Put the cut-up plums in a large bowl. Add the sugar, lemon peel, and lemon juice and mix well. Let the plums stand at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.
Have ready 3 half-pint sterilized jars and their rings and lids. Place 2 or 3 small bowls or plates in the freezer (you will use these to test the jelling point of the jam).
Pour the plum mixture into a large, heavy-bottomed non-reactive pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce the heat to medium, and cook at a lively simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until the mixture has darkened and begun to thicken. Remove one of the small bowls or plates from the freezer and spoon a small amount of jam onto it. Return the plate to the freezer for 2 minutes. To test if the jam is done, nudge the mound of jam gently with your finger; it should wrinkle slightly and feel thick. Tilt the plate. The jam should be thick enough that it moves slowly; if it seems runny, it is not quite ready and you should continue to cook the jam for another couple of minutes before testing once more.
Ladle the hot jam into the sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Wipe the rims clean if necessary with a clean, damp cloth, and screw the lids on the jars. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove the jars and set them upright on a clean kitchen towel. Within a couple of minutes you should hear the jar lids "ping" signifying that they have sealed properly.* Let the jars cool to room temperature before storing in a cool, dark place. They will keep for up to a year.
* If a jar has failed to seal properly, simply store it in the refrigerator, where it will last for at least 1 month.
Copyright 2012 Domenica Marchetti