A guest post by the Messy Baker

When the Jam Mistress offers you an opportunity to write a blog on her site, there is only one thing for it – grab your laptop and go! I first met Vivien a couple of years ago when I was muddling my way through batches and batches of bad marmalade – after one lesson from her, my marmalade is nearly perfect, even won three Silvers at Dalemain Marmalade awards! However, when it comes to jam making, I still have a lot to learn, but it doesn’t stop me from making jam from any fruit I can lay my hands on.

I am very lucky to live in the South East of London where fruit are plentiful and neighbours are friendly – not something I’d expect people associate with any part of London 🙂 Last year I spotted a number of large wild plum trees and was looking forward to picking some to make it into a jam.

After a courtesy check with the neighbours I picked a large bag of plums, leaving plenty for birds and any other jam foragers. On the way back I saw another tree loaded with what assumed were a type of a plum – but not the type I even saw before – gold and shiny, with honey-like taste. I decided to pick the fruit and see if I can make some jam out of them.

After a bit of googling I’ve discovered that the yellow plums I picked were actually “golden plum” variety, and were quite a common fruit in jam making. Well, that was a first one for me, and I was all set for making my jams.

I was looking for a “cheat” recipe, one that doesn’t require stoning the fruit – both the wild black and the golden plum fruit looked quite tight and would be a bit of a nightmare to stone. I didn’t find a recipe that I liked (I discarded anything involving butter or pectin – I am not THAT much of a cheat), so I’ve decided to make my own. You can tell that I am a baker, as I’ve decided to apply a baker percentage and turn it into a jam percentage, a formula to compare weight of jam ingredients to the weight of fruit – whether I am right or wrong – judge for yourself

Golden Plum Jam with a hint of Lavender

1.6kg plums (with stones in)
350g of water (22% weight of plums)
1.1kg granulated gold sugar (70% weight of plums)
Replace 110 – 150g of sugar with lavender sugar if you want to add lavender flavour
Juice of ½ lemon

Wild Black Plum Jam

2kg wild black plums
460g water (23% weight of plums)
1.4kg granulated white sugar (70% weight of plums)
Juice of ½ lemon

The recipe is the same for both jams, so I will write it as one :

Wash and sort the plums – throw away anything rotten, and it would taint the flavour of the jam.

Place plums in a large wide pan, add water and bring to the boil, uncovered. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes, until the fruit is very soft and mushy.

Take the pan off the boil, strain all the juice through a sieve in a separate pan. Ladle the fruit pulp (stones and skins and all) into a sieve, rub the flesh through the sieve, pushing out as much of the plum pure as possible. At the end you will have a bowl full of plum juice and pure, with a dry-ish mix of stones and bits of pulp left in the sieve.

Weigh the juice and pulp mixture, and, if required, reduce the weight to 70% of the original fruit weight, same weight as the sugars. My juices were a tab bit over, so I simmered them on a slow heat until I got to the right weight – 1.1kg for golden plum and 1.4kg for wild black plums.

Meanwhile heat the sugars in the oven on a very low temperature – 90C-100C for about 40 minutes or so. I never used to bother with that, but it does make a difference – makes it much easier for sugars to dissolve. Gradually add the sugars to the juice, add lemon juice and crank up the heat. Keep stirring the juice until all the sugars have dissolved.

Now its time for some magic – over the next 10-15 minutes your juice will turn into jam, and this is what you need to look for:
First you will see a good steady boil with lots of bubbles – that’s “rolling boil”

Then the bubbles will get really foam-like and will come up right to the top of your pan (that’s where you will discover if your pan is big enough – note to self, choose a large enough pan) – that “foaming cola” stage

Then you will see the boil die down a bit, and the colour will start to change, becoming darker and richer. From that point onwards you can start testing for a set.

I went through the usual wrinkle, cold plate, thermometer, and all that tests, but the best one still is the one Vivien showed me – the flake test. Using a large metal spoon, spoon up a some jam, share it around for a second or two – to cool off the jam slightly – and poor the jam back in the pan. Hold the spoon above the pan and watch how the jam drips off the spoon. Once you see a bit of tension – jelly like drops, you are there. Vivien calls it “the flake” test, I gave it slightly less pleasant name – the “snot test”. I know it doesn’t sound that great, but that’s exactly the kind of consistency you are after – once you see these snot like drops, you can be sure your jam is going to set.

Turn off the heat and leave the jam to cool for 5 minutes or so. Skim off any foamy scum that might have formed on the top – I skim it into a separate dish for my kids to lick later – a special treat every time mummy makes jam 🙂

Sterilise your jam jars by boiling them for 10-15 minutes and then drying them off in a cool oven (140C) for another 10 minutes.
Fill the jars right up to the top, and close them tightly with a lid. I got 5 ½ 250ml jars from the golden jam and 4x250ml jars plus 1x500ml jar from the black jam

Well, what can I say?

Golden jam – the colour has remained rich and golden, as I was worried that it might “wash out” a bit. The jam is quite cloudy, with little specks of purple – that’s the lavender – which I actually quite like. I judged lavender just right – the jam has a slight hint of lavender, without being soapy. Now, the taste is rather … surprising – it tastes more like apricots rather than plum, very VERY sweet, very honey-like. As for the set – I would say it’s a very soft set, but in Vivien’s words “its obviously not set” 🙂 I should have done a pectin test as yellow plums are frequently low in pectin, so it can be hard to make a jam that sets! I see it going really well with some wholemeal toast and butter.

Now, the wild black jam – its looks properly good – such a dark purple burgundy colour that its almost black. I did toy with the idea of adding some cinnamon to it, but in the end decided to keep it plain and simple and let the fruit speak for itself. The taste is wonderful – sweet and tangy at the same time, with almost velvety feel to it. It’s a better set than the golden plum one, but still not a solid set – I wanted a bit of a “wobble” in it. I am really happy with this jam, definitely adding to my annual jam-making list

Messy Baker

Monkey and Cookie

September 22nd, 2015|Tags: , |