It hadn’t been my intention to make red plum jam this year; I still have 3000 pints of blackberry “jelly” (it didn’t jell very well!) and many half-pints of peach butter, spiced and plain (which I adore the most of all my jams and jellies), and pints of apple butter, and I even have several half-pints of strawberry/cranberry jelly. Oh, and I have fig preserves. In short, I have enough Jam and jelly to last the rest of my life, because I think making preserves is interesting and fun, but I don’t use them up at a great rate.
But Virginia asked me to pick up some red plums for her at the farmer’s market, and I did; THEN, I had misgivings and thought I had not bought enough (the plums were very small, and the farmer, Lightsey’s Orchards of Mexia, thought I had ought to have bought half a bushel, and not just 5 pounds. Because they were mostly all pit!)
So I was going to return the five pounds and get a half-bushel, but the five pounds were really overripe and had practically disintegrated in the bag! From banging against each other, I suppose. They were NOT RETURNABLE!
So I made plum jam out of them. And here is the preposterous, the amazing, the ridiculous thing: THEY JELLED RIGHT AWAY, THE VERY FIRST BOIL!!!
That never happens, at least not for me! I have been unlucky in most of my jam-making. Usually I can only count on it working out if it is a fruit butter situation: it cooks until it gets thick. Sometimes I can get a jell when I add extra pectin, you know, after I realize that it is NEVER GOING TO JELL!! But not always.
This time, I just removed the pits from the Plum Mush, and sliced up a few underripes. I dumped it into my copper jam pot, and then realized I had forgotten to measure it. So I estimated the amount of Plum Mush to be 6 cups. I added 6 cups of sugar, boiled it, and it JELLED!
Plus, it is the best jam I have ever made! It is way better than blackberry jelly, I even like it better than strawberry jam. It has a nice tart bite.
Here is the Victorian-era recipe:
Sterilize some canning jars in a hot water bath, (half-pints are best), and have some brand-new canning lids handy, and the requisite number of bands. I never know how many, it is best to do MORE than you think!
Cut or mash the flesh from some red plums. Remove the pits; leave the skin on though.
Measure pulp into a large cooking vessel that is not cast iron.
Add an equal amount of white sugar. Don’t try to make it healthier by using less! EQUAL AMOUNTS!
Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally and making sure you do not scorch it. After a while, it gets foamy, and them the foaminess subsides. After the foaminess subsides check it to see if it is jelling once in a while (or obsessively) whatever works for you! (I alternated between casual and obsessive.) When it is jelling, it kind of coats the stirring spoon in a more noticeable way, and when you pour the liquid off the side of the spoon, the drops run together a bit, or (if you are lucky) get “stringy”. (Then you know for sure it is jelling!)
Ladle into jars and hot-water process for ten minutes. Put on lids and bands and allow to cool. When they are cooling, they seal and make a little “click” sound!