Jam for me is a trip down memory lane……my mother’s annual plum jam was a much awaited event….she’d spend a total of three days each year…sourcing the best plums, washing and drying them, sorting, slicing and finally cooking them to the ribbon stage….. bottling it up and then presenting a bottle to anyone who evinced interest….
at least that’s how I think it started…..because for as long as I remember, there was always a pretty long recipients list…….I am not a very jam friendly person…..and as a totally confused kid, thought it was way better to eat store bought jam…..I couldn’t understand why amma couldn’t make hers as smooth or sweet as what kissan made…..neither could I understand why she insisted on keeping some of it pulpy…..I remember mostly reacting to amma’s jam with a “yuck”…….funny….. because now I can give an arm and a leg for it……life has a way of reminding you how silly you were…..but mostly I am grateful for it!! I still am not big on jams…..I prefer it with pancakes, on desserts or simply mixed into some yogurt to satiate the sweet tooth…..
This was a labour of love that my mother indulged in once a year…..and regardless of how much people praised her and the result, and asked her to go commercial, she would say that all she wanted to do was make her signature plum jam once a year for her kids and she was satisfied…..for the last few years, due to various reasons the jam wasn’t being made, and tho I am not huge on jams and preserves, I was missing amma’s jam….so this year I decided to make some of it for myself….and between several panic stricken phone calls and extreme “I am missing you mommy”, I managed to make the jam….
Plums come from the prune family and infact dried plums are prunes…they are high in antioxidants and their sweet juicy flesh is used traditionally to make jams, juices, wine making and brandy……to read more on this, go here…..
I realized that jam making is a game of patience….firstly was the quest to buy jam worthy plums….. after searching in a couple of places….(my mother always went to the wholesale fruit market….. I took the easier / closer way out) I went to the neighborhood fruit shop and asked the “chacha” there to get me 5 kgs of jam worthy fruit…..why did I want 5 kgs? I don’t know…my mother always made it with that much…..plus we ate into it anyways………i told him why I wanted it and specified that I wanted ones that are firm and even in colour…..
the plums arrived a couple of days later and I washed them in a plastic bucket, with salt in three changes of water….laid them out to “air dry” on a thick towel on the kitchen counter for about 3-4 hours……all this while, k and I ate about 1-1½ kgs of it…..plums are sweet and tart at the same time….and the juicy insides do not allow you to stop at a few…..most of them have a whitish waxy coat and after they were dry I wiped them with a clean soft cloth…..they can be stored without refrigeration for a couple of days, but ensure they are a little under ripe if you plan to do this….
next comes the slicing of the fruit, removal and collection of the seeds and the cooking……….and however strongly you feel about hastening the cooking process, do resist it…..i didn’t have a vessel large enough for all the fruit to fit in the microwave, and it wouldn’t be authentic amma style….so I stuck to her stove top method…..4 hours of cooking on a low flame, and I am rewarded with the most beautiful dark ruby wine like coloured jam……..
the whole time, i went up and down the roller coaster, of emotions, panic and happiness at the end product ( I told you I love melodrama)……amma is delighted that I chose to attempt this one…and tho in the future I won’t be making such large quantities……i just hope I will continue to make jam….it was like meditation for me this one!!
this is my second entry to WYF: colour in food, mine is ruby red…what’s yours??
this is also off to Roma’s Long live the shelf event
To make plum jam (yields about 2 kgs of jam)
3 ½ kgs of firm plums – washed, air dried, sliced
1 -1 ½ kgs sugar (i used 1 kg…we like it tart)
Cut the fruit, slice off on both sides to get two small ‘cheeks’ and then the top and the tail.
Collect the seeds and place in a heavy bottom pan with ½ cup water and boil for about 20 minutes till it becomes mushy. Cool and place on a sieve when cool and mix gently with a wooden spoon to get the pectin (about ½ cup). This should be added to the cooking jam.
Place the fruit in a heavy bottomed pan ( I used the 5 litre pressure cooker), large enough to accommodate the entire quantity of fruit on the lowest heat / flame and slow cook it, stirring every 15 minutes with a wooden spatula.
After about 45 minutes, the fruit will begin to look quite mushy and bubbles will begin to appear. Add the sugar at this stage. And the pectin extracted from the seeds.
Cook through till the jam falls in flakes. This takes about 3-3 ½ hours. Periodically check for the sweetness of the jam and adjust sugar accordingly. Be careful to stand a little far from the cooking jam as it can bubble over and scald you with the molten fruit mass. Also do not keep your face very close to the cooking vessel. Ensure you stand well away to avoid any kind of accidental burns or mishaps.
The usual proportion of plums to sugar is 1:1.5 if you want really sweet jam. But since we like it a lot tart, I added 1 kg sugar for 3 ½ kgs of fruit and I also like the fruit still pulpy. Spices like cinnamon and star anise can be added to the jam at the time of adding the sugar.
Once the cooked jam begins to flake, turn off the heat and allow to cool completely, before bottling into sterilized containers. This jam contains no preservative and can be stored in the fridge for up to a year (if it lasts that long!!). Great with bread / toast / paranthas and as a topping for desserts and tarts.
jam making this way is very time consuming, so dont attempt if you do not have atleast 4 hrs of free time
use wooden spoons since they do not get heated
do not leave the cooking jam unattended
stand away from the cooking jam as it bubbles and can cause serious burn injuries