As I mentioned in a post a few days ago, I’ve been snowed under with plums, and when I say ‘snowed under’ I mean a veritable sunami of the things. At this time of year, ever since I’ve been here, the northern edge of my front lawn has been carpeted with small black fruits which I’d always thought were damsons. I’d always had in mind to make some jam out of them but in the end had just ended up throwing them away.
But not this year. It’s been a bumper year for them and if in previous years my lawn has been covered by a slightly thin and moth-eaten carpet, this year it’s been transformed into a thick, lush Persian rug. And only when I came to dispose of the first batch so I could cut the grass underneath did I find out that the fruit was actually plums, not damsons after all. And particularly nice juicy ones too that are delicious to eat raw but which I surmised would make excellent jam.
I’ve been pretty lucky in the preserves department. I belong to the school of cooking that says ‘if it looks right it probably is’. I find a recipe or two for what I want to make then throw them over my shoulder and combine the various ingredients, sometimes with others added or some removed, in the way that I want to. And the approach has never let me down so far.
Since being here I’ve made a couple of batches of onion chutney both of which turned out very well. In the second batch I used figs rather than sugar as the sweetener and initially was a bit disappointed as the result was a bit too crunchy for my taste because of the tiny pips that the figs contain. However, as the pots have matured the pips have softened to the point of being more or less unnoticeable and the result a year or two later is delicious.
I also bought marmalade oranges in Intermarché by mistake a couple of years or so ago and after initially being of a mind to throw them away decided that I’d make marmalade out of them instead. And the result even though I say it myself was excellent – much better than I’d expected, probably as good as any marmalade I’ve ever bought and certainly much nicer than the awful runny stuff that is all you can buy over here.
So up to last night I’d had a couple of large bowls of plums sitting on my kitchen table for several days and as I was getting ready to turn out the light and go to bed, it occurred to me that I ought to take a look at them. There were still plenty of nice plump plums remaining but the few that had been soft when I’d picked them up were beginning to develop mouldy white spots and starting to decay.
So as I’d bought a special 3-pack of ‘preserve’ sugar earlier in the day there was only one thing for it. I had to immediately separate the bad from the good, wash, de-stone and break up the latter, add sugar to them and place the plummy-sugary mix in the fridge overnight to macerate. So that’s what I did before I went to bed with the idea that sometime today I’d get stuck in and make some jam.
It also alerted me to the fact that time is marching on and although there is still fruit on the trees, the plums that are dropping are now very, very ripe – over-ripe in some cases. That made me think that as Madeleine had asked to have some more, I’d better pick her some before it’s too late, so this morning while it was cool I climbed up my stepladder to fill a carrier bag with good fruit, which I handed over to her this afternoon.
Then later this afternoon I got going with my jam making. I started off using half of the mix that I made last night and added it to a large pan. As the special sugar that I’d used had already contained some citric acid and some pectin I didn’t bother with any of that stuff and just got the mix boiling, which it did by bubbling away beautifully smoothly.
I had no idea how long to keep it going so kept tasting it off my wooden spoon (absolutely delicious) and after ten minutes or so placed some on a cold spoon to see if it would start setting, which it did. So that was the time to place it in a couple of jars and get on with the second batch.
I didn’t boil the second batch for quite as long as the first because I sensed that the extra boiling had removed some of the fruitiness, although I may have been wrong. But in any case, after not very long and certainly no great effort, I ended up with several jars of gorgeous looking plum jam of a rich, deep red colour.
My guess is that around 3 kilos of plums plus 2 kilos of sugar have made something like 4 kilos of jam, but those are only rough estimates. OK, looking good is one thing, but the main test is ‘how does it taste?’ There’s only one way to find out – take a short length of French baguette, cut it lengthwise in half and lightly toast the two pieces. Then add just the right amount of Brittany butter and a goodly coating of jam.
Now obviously the jam hadn’t had enough time to fully set by then and despite having been placed in the freezer for a short time to cool its jar and it down, was still more runny than it will be when fully cooled. So how was it?
Absolutely awesome! I’ve now decided that I’ll have to get some more sugar pronto and start picking the remaining fruit still on the trees before it’s too late as it would be a travesty to waste it. I’ll also need to get hold of some more jars but Wim told me this morning that Sophie had put a bagful out for me the other day which I forgot to take with me when I left for home.
As the replacement fuel injectors for my car didn’t arrive today, all that I’ll now need is for them to arrive tomorrow, solve my engine problems when they’re fitted and life’s pleasures will be complete. More jam anybody?