We inherited two small plum trees when we bought our house a couple of decades ago. The previous, elderly owner had a very hard time parting with them when he left. In fact, he appeared at our door soon after the sale begging to dig up one of the tiny sucker plants that had grown next to the trees. We obliged, of course, but I don’t know if he achieved success with what he took away. Many years and harvests later, we understood his love affair with the plum trees.
The plums that grow in our backyard are of the spectacular type. The fruit is large, with dark purple skin and yellow flesh. I like to pick them before they’re completely soft – when they’re sweet but still have a bit of tartness. A few others around here like them so sweet and juicy the juice runs down to your elbow after a few bites.
These plums are superb for eating out of hand, as well as baking in cobblers, crumbles, cakes and clafoutis. You can slice them and sauté them in butter and a little brown sugar, add a splash of Grand Marnier or other fruit liqueur and spoon over vanilla ice cream. Plum jam is the queen of jams. It’s a delicate pink color when cooked with the skins still on, and when melted, it becomes a glaze that can be brushed over fruit tarts.
We’re fairly stingy with our plums. One early summer morning years ago, a couple of neighbors we knew only well enough to nod to if they walked by, went into our back yard and picked huge bags of plums before we had harvested a single one They took the best of the crop, even picking some fruit that wasn’t quite ripe. Since then we make our own decisions as to who the lucky recipients will be. On good years we’re generous. This year? Eh… no promises.
- 4 ½ cups pitted, chopped plums
- ½ cup water
- 6 cups white sugar
- ½ teaspoon butter (optional)
- 1 (1.75 ounce) package powdered fruit pectin
- 8 half-pint canning jars with lids and rings
Sterilize canning jars and lids. I usually run my jars through the dishwasher and pull them out while they’re still hot from the drying cycle. (It’s important to pack the hot jam into hot jars.)
Place the plums and water into a large pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the sugar, and add butter to reduce foaming, if needed. Bring the mixture to a full, rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly, and then mix in the pectin quickly. Return the jam to a full boil, and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and skim off and discard any foam.
Place a rack in the bottom of a canner and fill halfway with water. Bring to a boil over high heat.
Pack the plum jam into the hot, sterilized jars, filling the jars to within 1/8 inch of the top. Run a knife or a thin spatula around the insides of the jars after they have been filled to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rims of the jars with a moist paper towel to remove any food residue. Top with lids, and screw on rings. Carefully lower the jars into the canner using a holder. Add enough hot or boiling water to cover jars by 2 inches. Bring water to boil. Start keeping time after water comes to a rolling boil. Process 10 minutes at a gentle but steady boil. Remove jars and set them upright on a dry towel on countertop. Do not retighten bands. Let jars cool 12 to 24 hours.
After jars have cooled, check lids for a good vacuum seal by pressing on center of each. If center is pulled down and does not flex, remove band and gently try to lift lid off with your fingertips. If lid does not flex and you cannot lift it off, seal is set. Wipe lid and jar surface with a clean, damp cloth to remove food particles and residue. Store jars in a cool, dry, dark place. If lids are not sealed, refrigerate jam and use within three weeks.