Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ridiculously Simple Balsamic-Kissed Plum Jam

My oldest son Josh has a plum tree in his Sacramento back yard and has been making jam for a number of weeks. Being the intrepid sort that he is, at first he plunged in knowing very little about fruit pectin, sugar, etc., and after some trial and error asked if I had a recipe of my own or my mother's. I had neither.

Josh's grandmother, who made all sorts of jams from the fruits of her garden in Davis, never used a recipe. I, sadly, did not inherit her jam jeans genes and until last night had never attempted to make fruit jam - a sad state of affairs to be sure, but ameliorated by those genes having jumped a generation, landing squarely on my son's backside. (Genes - get it?)

In my quest to find a recipe to send to him, the thought of spreading home made plum jam on a piece of toast wiggled its way into my head and stayed there. And even though I never found a recipe that didn't use so much sugar you could just choke, when plums began to make their appearance at the farmers market and our local co-op, I bought some. And then when I saw this incredible photo, I had to make that tart so, naturally, I had to make jam.

The tiny ones above, no bigger than a bing cherry, were picked from ancient plum trees in SoHum. Their yellow flesh is sweetly tart, the skins so delicate they fairly disappear on your tongue. The young woman selling them at the farmers market didn't know what their name was and neither do I. Suggestions welcome.

The larger, deep red Santa Rosas were so sweet and juicy that I was hard-pressed to keep from eating them as I prepared them for jam.

Being the maverick cook that I am, all I did to the plums was wash them, cut the pits out and drop them into a large pot, skins intact. What can I say? I like my food toothsome. Then not a glut, but a reasonable amount of sugar and a serendipitous spoonful of balsamic vinegar which, it turns out was a fabulous idea for which you can thank me if you make this, made up the rest of the ingredients. Told you it was ridiculously simple.

Christine's Ridiculously Simple Balsamic-Kissed Plum Jam
Makes about 2 cups
9-ounces small mystery plums
1-pound 6-ounces Santa Rosa plums (see Cook's Notes)
1/2 cup sugar, more or less depending on tartness of your plums
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Wash the fruits. Working over a large pot so you don't lose the juices, cut the plums in half and remove the pits, dropping the flesh into the pot.
Add the sugar, starting with the lower amount, and the balsamic vinegar, stir to dissolve the sugar and let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes as juice forms. Taste the juice and add more sugar if you wish, depending on the tartness of your plums. I stayed with the 1/2 cup and it worked perfectly.
Using a heat diffuser over medium-low heat, cook the plums until they reach a simmer and begin to fall apart. At this point I used a potato masher to break up the skins, which worked well.
Keep cooking over low heat, stirring often, until the mixture reduces and thickens up enough so that it holds its shape when spooned onto a cold plate (see Cook's Notes). This took the better part of an hour.
Ladle the jam into clean glass jars or glasses, cover with lids (or plastic wrap and a rubber band) and keep in the fridge. Use within one or two months.

Cook's Notes:
The combined weight of the plums was just shy of 2 pounds, so for this recipe I would use that (2 pounds) as your measure. It yielded 4 cups of pitted fruit.
> Leave a small plate in the freezer for about 10 minutes before doing the gel test.
> Because of the low sugar content, I wouldn't recommend storing this jam outside the fridge.
> And Josh kept on making jam until it came out just the way he wanted it. Whatta guy!

Copyright © 2005-2008, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved


  1. What a guy because he has what a mom! This sounds wonderful and I'm right there with you on the balsamic! Wouldn't I love to have some of the 'real' balsamic at an Italian balsamic tasting!! I know I'm dreaming but I think jam like this does that for me.

  2. Very nice, Christine. I will try to make some jam soon as well. Keep us posted on the jam tart.

  3. wonderful idea for making plum jam interesting, thank you for sharing. I have a colleague at work who is always interested in unloading her extra plums - with this inspiration, I will take her up on it!

  4. I'm envious of the glut of plums! I love making jams, and since we moved up to the mountains AND go on vacations all summer, I don't get to pick fresh fruit from my friends' gardens. That jam looks totally yummy!

  5. Hi guys, Thanks for your comments and a special hello to Cyndi whom I haven't heard from in such a long time. Next up is gelato with a plum jam swirl, if I can get the photos to come out right.

  6. Ah... plum jam. Shades of my childhood. My mom has jam "jeans". I might but I've rarely ventured so far as to go through the whole process on my own. I usually, even to the day, only helped at various points. I agree about the skins. You need them to add an occasional sour note in the sweetness. I'm really curious about the balsalmic vinegar. What kind did you use? Low price, medium price or Oh My God Are You Joking price?

  7. Bonjour, Nerissa. I used an everyday balsamico di Modena. $7 a bottle, I think. I used the last of the Oh My God Are You Joking stuff on a chevre appetizer the other day. Don't know when I'll replenish that one. $$$$$$$$!


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