Thursday, September 3, 2015

Italian Plum Jam

I seem to always have plums on my mind this time of year.  Last year I made a traditional German confection with them, Zwetschgenkuchen.  The year before I started off my blogging adventure in my new home with a simple jam made from the tiniest of plums, mirabelles.  It's so easy to fall into a plum state of mind with the markets literally crowded with crates of the purple, red and golden beauties.

You don't find the traditional round, red plums here too much.  And I absolutely miss the gorgeous plums and their cousins the pluots and plumcots that I used to find in my CSA boxes back in California.  But the abundance of the slightly unusual Italian plums (called Zwetschgen here in Germany) and the tiny golden mirabelles that are more typical in France is hard to ignore.

I suppose I could just do as my one year old daughter does and shove the whole plum in my mouth at once (in fact, it's what she's doing right now as I sit and type this).  That's a perfectly legitimate way to enjoy the bounty of the season.  Plus seriously darn cute and I can't resist sharing just one little photo of her.

But I'm in a giving mood these days.  So the plums that didn't make it into Little Miss's mouth went into jars.  What better gift that a beautifully ruby-hued jar of jam to mark the season?  I took my inspiration from the markets and piled my basket high with purple Italian plums.  There were plums for days in the kitchen.  But with a simple, streamlined jam making process I made quick work of them.  I kept a few jars for us and the rest went to friends to mark the start of school and to neighbors as a thank you for having the most enjoyable brunch with us this past weekend.

I suppose I really have no problems with the fact that I seem to always come back to the plum this time of year.  Because if you can't enjoy something that you love, what's the point? So I'm sharing a little love with you, just as I did with my friends and neighbors.  And maybe you'll pass it along too.  There's no better reason to than "Just because...".

Italian Plum Jam
Makes 4 half pint jars.
For the printable recipe, click here.

Italian plums (sometimes called prune plums) are a wonderful balance of tart and sweet.  They are my plum of choice for jamming for several reasons.  First (and not to be overlooked) is that they are easy to prep as they only require a couple of cuts and the pits pull out with little effort.  Secondly, their bright flavor is incredibly delicious and the color of the finished jam is so ruby red that the jam is as beautiful to look at as it is to taste.  If I haven't sold you on the virtues of the Italian plum or if you can't find them in your nearby markets any plum will do in its place.  Just make sure that you chop them into pieces that are about an inch to an inch and a half cubed.

1 kg (about 2.25 lbs) Italian plums
350 g (1 3/4 cup) sugar
zest and juice of 1 lime
juice of 1/2 lemon

Wash, pit and quarter the plums.  Toss the plums with the rest of the ingredients in a large, heavy bottomed pot.  Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours.

In the meantime, wash and dry 4 half pint jars and lids.  Set aside.

After two hours have passed prepare the jars for canning by placing the empty jars and lids in a canning pot and covering them with water by at least an inch.  Bring the water to a boil and let the jars heat in the water for 10 minutes.  Pull the jars carefully from the water with tongs, empty and remaining water and set onto a clean kitchen towel.  Remove the lids and set them on the towel.  Keep the temperature under the canning pot at medium.

While the jars are heating up, make the jam.  Bring the fruit and its juices to a rolling boil over medium high heat. Cook, stirring often.  A foam will appear on the surface of the jam after a few minutes.  When that foam starts to dissipate and the jam has a slightly lava-like boil, it is ready to pour into the prepared jars. It will have reached a temperature of 220 degrees if you check with an instant read thermometer.  Cooking the jam should take a total of about 15 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat to prevent overcooking.

Ladle the hot jam into the jars leaving a quarter inch of space at the top.  Wipe any jam off the rim of the jar using a damp paper towel carefully as both the jam and the jars are hot.  Place the lids on the jars and tighten until they are just tight (this is called finger tight- not so tight that you have to really work to tighten it, but not loose either).  Using canning tongs place the jars into the canning pot.

Bring the water in the canning pot up to a rolling boil.  When the boil is reached set a timer for 10 minutes.  After the 10 minutes remove the jars from the water and set back on the kitchen towel.  Let the jars cool completely.  If a seal has been correctly made the center of the lid will be sucked down and you will not be able to push it in and out.  Jars will keep in a cool dry area for about 6 months if unopened.  Opened jars will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator.

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