My good friend Rosie is like a fairy godmother. I’ve only known her a year since both of our eldest kiddliwinks started at nursery together, but we bonded quickly. At that point we were adjusting to life with a second baby – sleep deprivation is a horrible thing so we found solace in each other’s suffering!
Anyway Rosie has been a total star this past year, keeping me laughing and taking me for coffee when I felt like the world was a horrible place. And she does great things like bringing me a trayful of plums over from her garden at the weekend.
So it was time to fly solo without my mum and make jam on my own. It’d been a couple of months since the beginner’s masterclass with the princess of preserves, so I was quite nervous. But after a bit of advice from mum and my twitter chums I got stuck in.
Matthew had kindly taken the boys out for a spot of rowing on the Serpentine with their Uncle Markie so I had the house to myself. Jam is definitely not the kind of cooking I want to do with any kind of distraction. Here are the boys on their daytrip!
So with a strangely tranquil kitchen, I set about getting organised for the job. I got all my jam kit out and washed it thoroughly. Wiped down the surfaces and laid everything out that I’d need. I put a clean saucer and spoon in the fridge ready for the setting point test.
Plum Jam (makes 7-8 jars)
4 lbs firm plums
1 pint (ish) water
4 lbs granulated sugar
1. Wipe the plums, cut in half and place in the pan. You can remove the stones now or fish them out at the end of stage 2. Swings in roundabouts really but my mum said the stones help with the setting process so I left them in.
2. Put your plums in your pan, add enough water so they’ll cook but don’t feel the need to cover them all. Cook gently for 30-40 mins until they’ve broken down and are all mushy. (fish out the stones with a slotted spoon if you’ve left them in)
3. At this point I performed the pectin test using a spot of meths to see if enough of the setting agent has been released from the fruit. Take two small jars. Pour a small measure of meths into one and then half the amount of your plum juices
into the other. Pour the meths onto the juices, swirl it around for a few seconds and then let it stand for a minute or two. Then pour the meths off into the other jar, and if pectin has been extracted the fruit will form a jelly-like lump. If it’s not ready, just simmer a bit longer and do the test again.
4. Warm your sugar up in the microwave for a few minutes. Put your cleaned jam jars in to the oven at 50′c to warm up. Take the jam pan off the heat and then add your sugar. Stir until it’s no longer gritty and has dissolved.
5. Put your thermometer in and bring it up to a rolling boil until setting point has been reached, then remove from heat.
6. You can use the cold saucer test, or the flake test with a wooden spoon – or both as I did being ultra paranoid it wasn’t going to work coz my mum wasn’t there to hold my hand and check! Check out my beginner’s masterclass for details on all the tests I learnt.
7. Once you’re happy that your jam has reached setting point, skim off any of the foam from the surface and retain in a little pot if you want. Then get your jars out and carefully pour your jam in to 1cm below the top – the jam will shrink when it cools. I ladle the jam into a metal jug and then pour it in – much easier. Screw your lids firmly on, allow to cool and then label.
I don’t recall ever tasting plum jam before, but my version is sweet with a delicious depth from the plums. I thought it’d be a bit sharp, but not at all. It’s a vibrant pink colour and so far has been fabulous on toast and crumpets. I reckon a dollop of it would be knock-out in a serving of hot rice pudding!
I guarantee you’ll feel like a domestic god/goddess once you’ve turned out a few jars of your own jam! I really want to try making apricot jam next coz I got a real taste for it in France this summer. I need to try and find a orchard so I can go and gather some… could be a bit of a longshot in London!