Monday, September 21, 2015

Plum Jam

I moved into an apartment a few weeks ago, and have spent the ensuing weeks putting everything in place and organizing. It's a little one bedroom, which means the kitchen isn't particularly large. In fact it's teeeeeeny.  I suspect it's not going to be a huge deal, because it is just me in the apartment, but it is an adjustment. As I have been mostly busy getting things set up, cooking has been non-existent. I've been doing frozen pizzas in my toaster oven, horrible I know but they're quick and filling and don't require a lot of thought. So this Saturday I decided to christen the kitchen with a batch of jam.

See, I do this thing where I go to farmers markets and see all the lovely fruit and then buy a whole basket of said gorgeous fruits, not just the one or two I will actually eat before the basket spoils. It's a horrible habit. This week it was Italian Plums. They are so pretty you guys. Oblong and this deep, deep purple color. It would be a shame if they went to waste.

Fortunately as I've been reading a lot of the amazing blog Food in Jars, I've learned that you can take that small amount of produce and do a little batch of jam to help preserve the fruit. One of my friend owns both of Marisa McClellan's books, and they are amazing as well. They have some really good recipes that we've made at various times, and I absolutely recommend them if you're interested in canning. They are both currently on my Amazon wish list and will probably be my next 'fun' purchase.

I've been canning various things for most of my life on and off, but here's where the small batch canning information that McClellan lays out in both her blog and her books, really helps. I don't own an actual canning pot. I've borrowed my mother's (though now that they're 2,000 miles away that's a bit more difficult) and I've canned things at friend's houses at various times, but I do not currently own a large canning pot. All I have are my regular soup pots. However, I can rig one up using my pasta pot and the jar rings of some unused jars. I put the jars in the bottom of my biggest pot and filled it up with water. Then I checked to make sure that the water would cover my jars enough to truly process them. As I was using the itty bitty quarter pint jars, I was good. I could maybe get away with half pint jars in this particular pot, but I'm not sure I'd want to risk it. I will probably be investing in a larger pot at some point this winter, as pickles are my jam and I intend to pickle ALL THE THINGS next summer and pickles tend to require larger jars.

 For the actual recipe I used Marisa's method for jams, which I've gathered from several of her posts, which is to measure the fruit and then add half that amount of sugar. It would probably be ideal if I had a scale and did my measurements by weight, but I don't. So I pitted and chopped my Italian Plums and had about four cups of fruit. I added two cups of sugar. Now, I did check and plums are a fairly acidic fruit but just in case I added the juice of one lemon. Put that in my pot (a second pot, not the one I rigged for the water bath) and let it simmer away until it reached to just under 220F. Stirring every once in a while so the bottom doesn't burn.

Hilariously, I have a candy thermometer but not a scale. My kitchen is eclectic I tell you. This is what happens when you live with roommates for most of your life, you end up with a weird collection of kitchen gear. Living on my own for the first time, I am learning the MANY gaps in my kitchen collection.

If you don't have a thermometer, you can use the plate method (which has never, EVER made sense to me even when I've seen other people do it) or you can do it till the jam just looks right. It should be thick and the spoon should leave trails in the jam. Yes, somehow that makes more sense to me then the plate method. And here's the thing. Even with a soft set, your jam is still fabulous and useful. Personally, I don't worry too much about how firm or soft my jam set sup. I have done a full 4 pints of yellow plum 'jam' that was really a fancy fruit syrup. Tasty, TASTY stuff. Delicious on ice-cream or yogurt. So you know, don't fret it.

Anyway I then turned off the heat, and ran into the problem with electric stoves. You guys, I HATE electric stoves. I hate them with the passion of a fiery burning sun. But there aren't a lot of apartments that have gas stoves, so I'll deal. Anyway, the problem is this. I have two large burners. One of them was being used to heat up the water bath and the other was cooking the jam. Even when I turn off the heat, the burner doesn't cool off right away and thus my jam keeps cooking. And I didn't think about that so I had the jars all set up and ready to go next to the stove top. Moving the pot to a trivet on the counter just wasn't an option because, remember teeeeny, tiny galley kitchen. I have three counters. The one next to the stove and two across the walkway. At any rate, I just dealt with it  and quickly scooped the jam into the jars hoping that the jam in the jars I filled later wasn't overdone. I will know better next time and set up the jars on a different counter.

Then I cleaned the rims, set my lids on, screwed the rings to finger tight, processed them for 10 minutes in my improvised canning pot, and then pulled them out. The set on these looks pretty solid, though I will know for sure when I open the first jar. But look: Pretty.