Sunday, 24 February 2013

Sunday, Plum (jam) day!

Last night I decided that it was time to use up the remaining plums from my bumper crop.  Over the last few weeks, I had been putting any excess ripe plums (ie the ones we couldn't eat, cook or pass on to friends) in a freezer bag inside the freezer.

I had about 3 kilograms of plums in there, taking up a fair bit of space.  So, Sunday was slated as Jam Day, and the plums came out of the freezer to thaw overnight.


I chose this jam recipe - which calls for 2kg of plums.  As I had 3kg of plums, I decided to 'one and a half' the recipe.  (It turned out not to be such a great idea to cook the full 3kg in one go.  If you decide to use this or any other jam recipe, scroll down to the end of the post for some useful preparation tips, which I learned through trial and error.)

As the fruit had been frozen, it was a bit mushy, and therefore a cinch to de-seed and quarter.  Other recipes I have seen sometimes advise you to peel the fruit, but I consciously decided to leave the skins on as I figured they would give the jam a good colour.  This turned out to be the right decision!

In the photo below, I have just added the warmed sugar to the gently cooked fruit (I warmed the sugar by putting it into a pyrex lasagne dish and placing in the oven, where the jars were already sterilising, for about 10 mins).


When the jam started to boil,


I removed the scum on top as it formed.


Finally, the jam reached 'setting point' (mine took about 15 mins longer than the recipe indicated - I tested it three times).

Once it was good to go, I carefully put the hot jars on a tea towel (straight from the oven) and used a pyrex jug to pour hot jam in each jar (it got a bit messy!).  Luckily, I had more than enough jars for the quantity of jam made.


The jam ended up being a rather lovely, glossy, burgundy colour!


Next, I had to cover the jars to form a seal.  I used these nifty preserve covers (below), as the jam jars' own lids looked a bit daggy and I was not confident that they would form the necessary airtight seal.

My verdict on the Kleerview seals is that they work a treat, albeit a bit fiddly.

The instructions say that you have to wet one side of the clear sheet, and put the seal on the jar dry side down.  The heat of the jar creates the seal.

Accordingly, I dipped the seals one at a time onto a shallow plate with a little water, then put them on the jars.  This method worked sort of alright, but as the seals were sticky once wet, I messed a couple up (it reminded me of trying to put those self-adhesive covers on school books!).

I reckon placing the cover on the jar dry, then squirting it with a spray bottle, would work much better!  I will do that next time.


Here is the sealed jam cooling down -


and labelled!  The rubber bands and labels came in the packet with the seals.


I think I could have put the rubber bands on a bit more evenly, in hindsight, but they all seem to have a good seal regardless.

And now for the test drive  . . . and what better than some hot buttered toast with home made plum jam? (and yes, I like my toast 'slightly burnt', as it is crunchier).


Result: Jammy and delicious!

MY PREPARATION TIPS:

1.  Don't waste your produce - freeze it 'as you go' before it goes past its 'use by date'.
2.  Make sure you have ALL the equipment you need before starting, ie, a big enough saucepan, a wooden spoon, enough jars (six or seven standard jam jars for 2kg fruit), lids or equivalent seals such as Kleerview, heat proof jug or scoop for getting the jam out of the saucepan and into the jars, an oven proof container big enough for warming the amount of sugar you need, and a clean water spray bottle if using that for sealing (see item 7, below).
3.  Only plan to cook enough jam for the size of your largest pan.  I found 3kg of fruit was pushing it with my tureen.  I got splashed with boiling jam more than once, and I also got a lot of sticky jammy bits all over the kitchen while it boiled!  This was my own fault - the saucepan was almost full whilst it was boiling.  Next time, I will aim to fill the saucepan no more than half-full with fruit.
4.  Before you start, put your jars in the oven for sterilising.  They need to stay in there for a minimum of 20 mins (over 20 mins is fine - you want to be pouring hot jam into hot jars).  I had the oven at 150C.  Over 190C will crack the glass, so don't do that!
5.  I warmed the sugar for about 10 minutes, whilst the jars were sterilising in the oven.
6.  Make sure you have more jars than you think you will need, including a few smaller jars in case you have a smaller amount at the end.
7.  If using transparent preserve covers, try the spray bottle trick - place cover over jam jar and spray outside of cover with water to create seal.

All in all, it's been a happy Jam Day!

Nandina









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