Since The Wednesday Chef is on vacation, and Orangette has been a little spotty, I've been reading a lot of Chez Pim, a wonderful, adorable, knowledgeable blog that you need to read, too. There is nothing, nothing not to love. Also, Pim is, or at least her online persona is, one of the bloggers that I read that I would actually, really like to be friends with if I could.
She inspired me to make jam.
I've been meaning to make jam for a long time. And you know, this also goes for applesauce, but whenever I do make it, it's gone two days later so it's not really a huge issue. But I've been afraid of jam, because I am afraid to commit to the process of canning/preserving. I've been wanting to make something that truly captures the flavor, the season, of fresh fruit, ever since reading Luisa Weiss' post about apple butter. And yet...the process involved with preserving things is a little scary.
But then I read that Pim didn't bother to mess with the boiling water and the pressure and the craziness of sealing jars, and that she just ate her entire batch of jam instead. Now that's something I can get behind. So I took a deep breath, cut fruit into pieces and simmered it up nice and voilà! Plum jam. Greengage plums (also called Reine Claude, for all you francophones) are what Pim recommends, but she lives in California, and they aren't in season in New York yet (the fruit guys at the market told me to come back next week, so I'll try again then), so I bought two pounds of Elephant Heart and Italian Prune plums. The Elephant Hearts are a rich, deep red color, and are perfectly balanced between the sweetness of the flesh and the tart skins; the Italian Prunes were just underipe, and very surprising, color-wise--outside, they were a bruisy, empire purple, and on the inside were pale yellow-green. When they melded together, they formed a brilliant magenta hue. I also cut the sugar by about a third, since Greengages are supposed to be less sweet than the ones in my kitchen. Next time I'll add a little more, though, since my end product is a little on the tart (though delicious) side.
All in all, this made two full Bonne Maman containers of jam--my preferred brand of jam that I don't make myself. Maybe, though, I'll take the plunge and learn how to *actually* preserve my goodies. For the winter, of course, when the sunny flavors slide into memory, and it's cold enough to mourn sweet plums from the market.
Plum and Vanilla Bean Jam, adapted from Chez Pim
approximately 2 pounds plums
1/3 cup sugar (or more to taste)
juice of one lemon
1 whole vanilla bean
1. Pit plums and cut them up into just larger than bite-size pieces.
2. In a non-reactive pot, macerate the plums with the sugar and lemon juice for about an hour. Pim suggests that you put a parchment cover over the plums, but I'm not really sure what it does. If you know, do tell me, because I am curious
3. After the plums have started to release their juices, split open the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Add them, as well as the pod itself in with the fruit. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and stir gently to make sure all of the sugar has melted. Keep an eye on the jam, and keep stirring until it reaches your desired consistency. (Pim says that when it starts to thicken, you should use a spoon to take a bit out, spread it on a plate, and see how it starts to gel.) Remove from heat. Eat slathered on baguette with butter.