Sunday, May 18, 2008

Putting Up - Plum Jam

Pixie of You Say Tomahto, I Say Tomayto, and Rosie of Rosie Bakes a Peace of Cake, are hosting an event called Putting Up, which apparently is a reference to "putting up" preserves. Pixie chose this event topic because she had not yet made her own jam or preserve when she announced the event on 6 April. She has since then gone on to make several fine types of preserve.

I have made lemon curd before with no worries, but jam is something that has always troubled me. Although I had never tried it, the whole process of cooking fruit and sugar without ending up with a burned, super-glued mess, and sterilising jars without burning myself or exploding the jars, left me in a cold sweat. However, as I am a Daring Baker, I am supposed to be fearless in the kitchen, so this event has squarely laid down the gauntlet for me to step up to the plate and make preserves.

Originally, I had wanted to make rhubarb jam (in honour of my friend
Ivy) or quince jam (because I recently had a jar of the most gorgeous quince jelly made by a work colleague, Julien). However, when I went to the market with my friends Charet and Marco to buy the fruit, I couldn't see any quinces or rhubarb - but beckoning me was a huge sign saying "Plums - $1.00/kg". Brilliant - I love plum jam and didn't have any at home, and I figured if it all ended in tears, I would not have wasted a fortune on expensive fruit. Accordingly, I shovelled a kilo and a half of plums into a bag and took them home.

When it came time to make the jam, I felt rather nervous. I had never done this before, and hence had no real idea what I was doing, despite reading Pixie's interview with Rosie, an article in the March edition of Cuisine on sterilising and sealing jars, possessing Amy Schauer's book on preserving (which assumes that I know way too much), and having carefully read the instructions on my packet of Jamsetta, which is a powder made by Fowlers Vacola in Australia that presumably contains gelatine or pectin to give your jam a nudge in the right direction. However, armed with all the information that I could hope to obtain without having my Mum on hand to guide me, I dived in to make my very first batch of jam.

And lo, although I managed to get jam in quite a few places where it didn't belong, particularly when it came to pouring it into bottles, and found out that the lids on my jam jars were definitely NOT microwave safe, I have produced four large jars of set plum jam. (For the record, my non-descript bargain plums were of the yellow variety inside.)

To make jam of almost any kind, there is no magic recipe - everything I read says use equal parts fruit and sugar. My jam consisted of:

1.5kg plums
1.5kg sugar
1 x 50g sachet Jamsetta
1/2 cup water

Cut the plums in half and remove the stone. You don't need to peel them. Place the halved plums and the water into a large saucepan (your final jam should not take up more than 1/3 of the volume of your saucepan) and cook over a gentle heat for about half an hour until your fruit is a soft pulp, stirring from time to time to ensure that the fruit doesn't burn onto the pan.

Warm the sugar by placing in a heat-proof bowl in the oven at 150 degrees Celsius for about 5 minutes. Add the warmed sugar and the Jamsetta to the fruit while still on the heat, and heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then turn up the heat and bring the mixture to the boil. Boil the jam vigorously for about 10 minutes, then put a teaspoonful onto a cold plate and let it sit for 30 seconds. After the 30 seconds has expired, run your finger through the jam on the plate, and if it crinkles, the jam is cooked. If it doesn't, boil for another 5 minutes and try again. Once the jam is ready, take it off the heat and let it sit for 5-10 minutes, before pouring into hot, sterilised jars. Clean the rim and sides of each jar with a damp cloth, then seal each jar.

To sterilise the jars, boil them for 10 minutes, then remove them from the water using tongs, and dry completely. You can microwave the boiled jars to ensure that all moisture is removed, but don't microwave metal lids (basic, but I did it!!). To seal the tops of the jars, use squares of cellophane cut to size, moisten them and place them over the top of the hot jar and secure with a rubber band. The cellophane will shrink to fit the jar. Place the jar lid over the top of the cellophane seal.

As I type this post, my plum jam is still cooling in the jars, but I tasted the jam on the spoons, the saucepan, the spoon rest etc and it tastes soooooo good. If I ever end up with a lot of fruit that I don't know what to do with, or I want to preserve the goodness of one season for another, I would definitely try making jam again with other fruits.

Thanks to Pixie and Rosie for tempting me outside of my comfort zone to try the great home art of jam making. You will be able to see lots of other great preserves by visting the roundup at Pixie's and Rosie's sites after 21 May.

On a different note, my friend Ivy at Kopiaste has awarded me the "I Love You This Much" Award:

Thanks so much Ivy! I appreciate it, and would give it back to you if the rules allowed. I have the honour of being able to give this award to 5 other bloggers. I nominate the following people, who have, along with numerous others, constantly encouraged me in my blogging adventures so far:

Pixie of
You Say Tomahto, I Say Tomayto

Rosie of Rosie Bakes a Peace of Cake

Swati of Sugarcraft India

Gretchen of Canela & Comino

Silvia of Magnolia Wedding Planner

Thanks to all of you and to everyone else who drops by to say hi - I genuinely appreciate it.


Pixie said...

Well done sweetie!!!!! Doesn't it feel great? there's no stopping you now girl!

Thanks so much for taking part in the event and I'm truly proud of you.


Pixie said...

oh and thank you so much! love ya right back


Cakelaw said...

It does feel great Pixie - I have looked fear in the face and won!

Silvia - Magnolia Wedding Planner said...

wow thank you so much. It's so unexpected! :-D love you too darling!!I don't know what to say!
Thank you so much
I'm so happy of having found you in this blogsfere jungle :-D
I send you a's tight :-D

Gretchen Noelle said...

Great job making jam! I bought some quinces to work with but the whole idea of sterilizing does worry me! We will see if I get to it in time!

Y said...

$1 a kilo for plums! I would've been tempted to buy a whole box :)

Astra Libris said...

Mmmmm, I adore plum jam... and yours is especially beautiful! Congrats on becoming an official jam expert!!

Cakelaw said...

Hi Silvia, I appreciate your thoughtful comments, and that you take the time to stop by.

Thanks Gretchen - good luck with the quince jam; hope all goes well.

Hi Y, on reflection, maybe I should have!

Thanks Astrid!

Anonymous said...

congrats on trying out your home-made jam. Must try to do that myself too.. oh yes, tqvm too for having me in your blogroll. I'll be adding yours. :)

Tammy said...

congratulations on youf rist jam making experience!! Now you will be hooked!!!!! You should try quice jam. if yuo boil it past setting point it sets lovely and firm like quince paste

adele said...

Mmm, plum jam! I haven't tried making my own preserves yet, but it's only a matter of time...

Lakshmi said...

we like Plum and plum jam must have tasted real good. Loved it..

Lore said...

I have never made my own jam and feel quite intimidated by making this step. Grandma used to make the best plum jam in the world and I guess I feel like I need to live up to her flavourful jam.
I can easily imagine your jars next to some buttery toasts on a chilly weekend morning.

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

I like home-made jam as they are not as sweet and much tastier.

Thistlemoon said...

YAY! You beat your food challenge! I love that! Looks yummy too! Way to go!

Rosie said...

Well done sweetie on your jam!! You'll be preserving lots now :) Many thanks for partaking in this event too.

Awe and many, many thanks for the award - I love you too :)

Rosie x

giz said...

Great entry and congratulations for pushing yourself outside the box. That's how good becomes great!