My Never Fail Recipe for Perfect Plum Jam

Jul 3, 2003

The Bottom Line This is an easy recipe. Trust me.

It's that time of year again. Summer fruit is ripe for jam making, and my plum tree just produced a bumper crop of fruit. It isn't the sweet kind of fruit just made for eating warm from the sun. Nope. Mine are the tart-sweet red plums that make the best jam.

Oh, I've tried giving the fruit away to relatives. I've tried. Present them with a big box of plums and say: "It's simple. Wash 'em, take out the pits, and boil 'em up with three-fourths cup of sugar to every cup of fruit. Just enough water to cover the bottom of the pot. When they reach a full boil with foam on top, dip them into jam jars. Let cool. That's it. And, " I add casually "if you think the jam might not be thick enough, add a little pectin to the mix."

And they come back and say: "Well I followed your directions. I did! But my jam just didn't turn out like yours. Are you sure you follow the same recipe?" After careful thought, I grudgingly admit: "Well, not exactly. But mine is" And I get "That Look."

So, well, here it is. My Never Fail Recipe for Perfect Plum Jam:

1. Collect plums from tree into a container that only holds 80 percent of the plums. After trying to stack the plums in a pyramid on the top of the bucket with limited success, go look for another bucket. Ignore the wasps. They are just mad about losing "their" fruit. Come back with second bucket and transfer the excess plums from bucket one to bucket two. Pick up the half-bucket of plums that ended up on the ground in the process. Finish picking plums from the tree.

2. Take the plums into the house and set the buckets in the sink while looking for the tube of stuff that treats wasp stings. Dump the first bucket of plums into a colander and start water running, then add the fruit from the second bucket until the colander is filled. Try adding the remaining two cups of fruit by stacking them into a pyramid. Pick up all of the spilled fruit and put it in another container. Clean up the floor where fruit was stepped on, and dump stepped-on fruit into the compost bucket.

3. Pit the washed fruit by cutting one side with a knife and lifting out the pit. When this gets tiresome, try pitting the plums with a cherry pitter. Clean the plum juice off of the sink, walls, and ceiling fan, then put the "cherry-pitted" fruit in the compost bucket.

4. Finish pitting the fruit with a knife and dump contents into a stockpot. Add a half cup of water, turn on the heat, then realize that the pitted plums were never measured to determine the number of cups. Estimate the number of cups in the stockpot, then add the appropriate amount of sugar. Add another cup of sugar just to be safe.

5. Realize that the jam will eventually need jam jars. Go to the storage room to look for the jam jars and search the five boxes on the top shelf for jars, without success. Stop and think "Now why am I smelling something with the scent of burned fruit?"

6. Turn off the stove and move the stockpot of plums to a trivet while cleaning up the two cups of sticky liquid that boiled over on the stove. Suddenly remember why you wanted a stove with a solid ceramic surface. Try cleaning the outside of the stockpot without removing the contents. Pause to look for the tube of stuff that treats burns.

7. Move the remaining plums to a clean pot, then worry that there's not enough liquid. Add another half cup of water, and turn the burner on low. Write a note to self that says "Don't leave the kitchen when the fruit is coming to a boil. It boils over FAST!" Decide the best place for the note is on the inside of the jelly cupboard door. Open the jelly cupboard door, and add the note to the five other ones from previous years. Discover the jam jars in the jelly cupboard, and take them to the sink. Realize that the jars need to be sterilized, but one stock pot is in use for the jam and the other one is in the sink covered inside and out with sticky jam-like stuff. Clean up the sticky pot and fill with water and jam jars. Put on burner to boil.

8. Check the plums and worry that they have too much liquid. Go look for the pectin. Read the label and remember that the pectin needs to be dissolved in a half cup of water before being added to the fruit. Prepare the pectin and add it to the boiling plums. Add another cup of sugar just on general principals. It can't hurt.

9. Check the jam jars. Turn up the heat on the plums to get the excess liquid out. Check the lids for the jam jar. When the plums boil over, quickly turn down the heat. Try cleaning the stove without taking the pot of plums off the burner. Go look for some more stuff to treat burns.

10. Turn off the heat under the boiling jam jars. Gently lift the jars out of the water with a jar-lifter thingamajig. Carefully clean up the floor where one of the jam jars broke. Pause to find bandages to treat cuts, and more of that burn salve.

11. Turn off the heat under the boiling plums, then carefully transfer the hot jam to the jars. Add lids and transfer the filled jars to the cupboard to cool. Clean up the floor, sink, stove, and (unaccountably) the overhead fan where the jam spilled. Make a note to buy more burn salve.

Okay, that's it. My recipe for perfect plum jam. It goes quite well with a pat of butter on fresh homemade yeast rolls. I'd give you my recipe for the yeast rolls, but it's a bit complicated.

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