Autumn is just around the corner, and the time is right to start preserving fruits and vegetables for the winter months. Jam making is one of my much-loved autumn kitchen activities and plum jam is among my favourites, partly due to the nostalgia, partly due to the effortlessness of the process.
Generally, when making jam, always use ripe fruit. It is the sweetest, most fragrant, and perfect for jams. Of course, before making the jam, do go through the fruit and remove the imperfections or bruises, to make the jam last longer.
This particular jam is very forgiving, requiring very little preparation work, but also very rewarding, with its smooth texture and incredible flavour. Ripe damsons, warm, earthy vanilla, and a drop of dark rum; the perfect combination of signature autumn flavours, perfect for sweet breakfasts, roulade fillings, as well as for simple enjoyment with a smallest teaspoon, right from the jar. Do not fret the dark rum; it is there just as a pleasant undertone, rather than a sharp bite.
1. 2 kilograms ripe damsons, stones removed
350 grams granulated sugar
½ vanilla bean
2 teaspoons dark rum
Place the plums into a large blender, and blend until they are completely pureed. When they almost resemble a smoothie, strain them into a large pot, preferably non-reactive, and tip in the sugar. Stir briefly, and let the fruit macerate for about 30 minutes.
Place the pot on medium-high heat, and add in the scraped seeds from one-half of a vanilla bean. Let it come to a boil, and then cook, for about 25 to 30 minutes, stirring often, and removing the foam that appears on the surface.
After about 25 minutes, check if the jam has reached its setting point, either by testing with a thermometer or simply dropping half a teaspoon onto a chilled plate, and seeing if it sets or not. If you check using a thermometer, it should reach 105°C, and if you check with a chilled saucer, let the jam stand for about 2 minutes before gently touching it with the tip of your finger. If the surface wrinkles, it is ready. If not, continue cooking for another 5 minutes, and check again in the same fashion.
Once the jam reaches its setting point, remove it from the heat and let it cool down just enough so the surface stops steaming. Add in the dark rum and stir well. Pour the jam into prepared, sterilised jars and close the lids well. Keep it in a dark and cool place, or in your refrigerator, for the best taste. Yields 800 grams of jam.
By Tina Vesić