The cherry plums are early! When John said that they were ready last weekend, I didn’t quite believe him. With a busy weekend ahead of us and no jam sugar in the cupboard, I took a quick glance and suggested that they could wait at least another week. However, by this weekend a sizeable number were starting to fall off the tree. It was time to act!
You may not be familiar with cherry plums. They are small, bigger than a cherry but not as bit as a plum, and very, very sour! But they do make good, flavourful jam! Their red, plummy exterior covers a deep orangey / yellow flesh that gives the jam the colour of a good, dramatic sunset.
This morning we timed our pickings well as not long after the rain began to tip it down, making this the perfect afternoon for jam making. I confess to be a little taken aback by just how many fruit were on the tree!
This is an old large cake box which was full by the time John returned to the kitchen! I suspect that the very hot, dry weather that we’ve had up till now combined with the fact that the tree has not fruited for the last couple of years due to pruning (plums tend not to fruit well for a year or so after pruning), has led to a bumper year.
This was an awful lot of fruit to halve and stone! Very quickly it became clear that we were not yet half way through but we already had the requisite 4lbs of fruit recommended by the recipe. At this point it can be very easy to get carried away. Let’s go on to 5lbs I said, or more said John. Then I pointed out that our large stewpot that we make jam in probably wouldn’t take more than 5lbs of fruit! At least not by the time you’ve allowed for 5lbs of sugar to join it! At this point the realisation dawned that we were probably going to be doing the same thing again tomorrow afternoon.
Whilst the fruit simmered down, we washed jam jars and heated them in the oven and I acted on the old trick of cooling plates in the fridge to check the setting point. Ten minutes of what is technically known as the ‘rolling boil’, when usually both you and the fruit get overheated (you must keep stirring at the same time!), and we were ready to dribble it onto the cold plate to see if it was going to set. This duly wrinkled and so we were ready for the messy and dangerous job of getting a vat full of boiling fruit and sugar safely into its jars.
We had underestimated! Further emergency jar washing commenced! Although this looks like a right hotch-potch of jars, we find it really useful to have different sizes. Many of our jars of jam are destined for the church pre-Christmas sale and, with an usual flavour such as cherry plum, it’s good to have some small jars that people can purchase as a taster.
So all that remains now is to repeat the whole exercise again tomorrow …!
And please don’t add ‘eye of newt’ to your jam!!