Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Just a little jam

Jam is one of those things that intimidates me. Or that used to, until last week.

Don't get me wrong, I grew up in a jam making family. My grandmother had jars and jars of jam in her basement, all carefully sealed with a layer of wax. My mother only made strawberry freezer jam, but we always had a container of that in our freezer.

But for me jam was always a BIG DEAL. You had to go and buy the pectin and canning jars, pick a flat of strawberries, and then spend your whole Saturday over the stove with a bag of sugar.

This is just not true at all. Jam is a way to use up leftover fruit. Throw in those plums that got all mushy, those cherries that weren't quite sweet enough, cook down the whole shebang with a bit of sugar and you have jam. It's that easy.

No need for pectin either. Fruit has its own pectin. If you cook it long enough, the jam will just gel, like cranberry sauce does.

Canning is nice, of course. But you could also just freeze whatever you're not going to eat right away. Or you could make it in small batches, whatever you happen to have.

So liberating! Oh and from what I hear, you don't need any fancy gizmo to can either, just the mason jars and some steam. That's for next time.

Cherry Plum Cinnamon Jam
(adapted from Bon Appetit)

NOTE: this makes a very small amount, like 1 cup. If you want more increase the fruit, but you likely don't have to increase the sugar too much. I like the idea of just making enough jam for me.

4 plums
1 # cherries
1/2 vanilla bean
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup-1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh lemon

Cut plums into quarters, throw into pan (including pit). I threw in the cherries whole and pitted them after I'd cooked it down. You could pit them before you put them in, but I hear rumors that the cherry pits add a lot of flavor (almond like). Messy before or messy after--your choice.
Then put in vanilla bean and cinnamon stick (if using) and sugar. I made this with a cup of sugar which was too much really, but I haven't tried it with less so I couldn't swear to that. Add salt.

Cook over low heat for 15 minutes until the fruit releases its juices and sugar dissolves. Then turn up to medium and cook about 30 minutes until it thickens. Wash hands well and dig out all the pits (I told you, messy after). The plum pits are easy to find as the plums just dissolve, the cherry pits are harder. If too sweet, add some lemon for contrast.

Enjoy! Freeze the leftovers or try your hand at canning.

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