When I was a young girl in Massachusetts, my father would bring home bushel-boxes of Damson plums from trips to Maine in the fall. My mother would spend the next day over the sink and stove, sterilizing the jars and cooking the plums into lovely plum jam to refill them. We all pitched in writing the labels, so ours were adorned with a variety of handwriting from adult to pre-school. I remember that jam well -- we spread it on our toast all winter long and we made jam tarts next to the mincemeat pies in the mini-tart pans at Christmas time.
Making jam is becoming one of those lost arts ... all the ladies that bring jam in to the county fair have white hair, and the spidery handwriting on their labels shows they did all the work themselves, no helpers in the kitchen.
My love of plum jam has not left me, so I have always scoured the market shelves looking for plum jam. In the last few years, it has gotten harder to find. So, this year, when I noticed the lovely plums on the tree in the empty lot next to me had no-one to collect them except deer and birds, I resolved to do something about it.
A bucket-full of plums later, there was plenty for my jam cooker -- a heavy duty stainless steel pot with a clear glass lid, picked up at Goodwill for a song -- one of those lucky finds you don't pass up. I'm certainly glad I decided to get it, as it's been a very helpful pan, and when I saw the price of new ... I was really thrilled someone had donated it to Goodwill.
So I filled up my sink with hot water for the jars, fired up the stove, and put together my jam in my cooker:
- 5.5 pounds plums
- 5 cups white sugar
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
I cooked my jam the way my mother did -- mashing the fruit as I went, stirring it occasionally, not wandering away. The pips eventually separated and rose, so as I stirred, I fished them out.
A couple of saucers tucked in the freezer sufficed for jam testing. As last year's blackberry jam was a bit overcooked, I decided to stop early this year, when the jam started acting jammy on the frozen plates.
It was a good sign that my jam, right down to the last spatula-scraping, exactly filled a dozen 1/2-pint jars to 1/4 inch from the top ... and that all 12 lids "popped" during cooling, so they've all sealed themselves until their turn comes.
Looks like it will be a plummy winter!
© 17 September 2009 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at http://askthebellwether.blogspot.com/