My grandmother was a fantastic cook. She made bread, sponges, cakes and the most amazing jams, pickles and preserves. Our larder was always filled with jars of fruit in all manner of color. Each sorted into the type of preserve, and the date it was bottled. She was forever giving away bottles of jam to our friends as she always made way more than we could ever use.
I would sit with her as she readied the fruit removing any blemishes that may taint the final result and sucking the jam off the stones as she removed them from the boiling cauldron of fruit sugar and water.
My husbands family had a Damson plum tree. These are a small bitter plum that are not pleasant to eat as a raw fruit, but they make the most amazing jam. Unfortunately Damson plums do not seem to be available in Australia.
There are a number of things to consider when making jam firstly is making sure you have a pan large enough to allow the ingredients to boil briskly without overflowing.
The ripeness of the fruit, the speed of the boiling and the size of the pan are factors that determine when and how well the jam will set.
The jam needs to be tested during the cooking process to judge when it ready to put into the sterilised jars, and one way to do this is to dip a wooden spoon into the mixture and allow it to drip. You know the jam is ready when the mixture no longer runs off the end of the spoon and only a couple of drops form on the end of the spoon, this means the mixture will set on cooling.
The next step is to put a little jam onto a cold plate and leave it to cool slightly. You know the mixture will set when the surface wrinkles when touched and a channel is formed and remains open when you draw your finger through the mixture. As a guide most jams and marmalade’s set at a temperature of 105°C.
Damson Plum Jam
Damson Plums (unlike most plums) are not easily separated from their stones.
1 1/2 kls (approx 3.3lbs) of plums
2 cups of water
4 cups of sugar
Put the water and plums into a pan and boil for approx 15-20 mins. Cool the mixture and then remove the pips. This may require the use of a food mill. Once the pips are removed return the pulp to the jam and continue to boil until the jam passes the set test.
Remove any pips that may have been missed.
Skim the jam and pour into jars that have been sterilized following the manufacturers instructions.
The above recipe makes a soft, tart tasting jam, which is the appeal of Damson plums, however if you like a firm jam that is not quite so tart tasting add an extra two cups of sugar and one cup of water.
For more information on general jam making, and I urge you to give it a go, it’s fun, this website has lots of information How to make jam easily.
And of course you will need a selection of jars on hand. I like to have a number of different sizes and shapes. As it is quite satisfying to give a gift of a beautiful jar of jam, nicely presented with a home made label.