Monday, September 3, 2007
JEWEL-LIKE, TANGY-SWEET ITALIAN PLUM JAM
Italian plum jam with some of the tiny plums and the leaves of the tree
I'm not big on canning or jam-making anymore, but I recently made a small batch of beautiful, tangy Italian plum jam.
We have a volunteer plum tree with little tiny plums. This is only the second year that we've had any plums from it. Last year we had lots and I made Chinese plum sauce and plum chutney. This year we only got a few. The racoons, new to Denman Is. in the last few years, got alot of them I think-- at least we chased off two fighting in the tree early one morning! I happened to see a recipe from vegetarian cookbook author Anna Thomas for an Italian jam using tiny plums, so I had the perfect material for this recipe!
You can see how small the plums are in this picture
I think the kind we have are "Hardy Plums". See this page for information on plum varieties. It says: "these are selections of native American species of wild plums, or hybrids between these species. These plums are hardy, late blooming, usually small or very small plums adapted to the rigors of northern continental climates where most of even the more winter hardy European plum are not successful."
I changed Ms. Thomas' cooking method a little. My method eliminates the time-consuming task of pitting all those little plums by cooking them whole for a few minutes with the other ingredients, and then running them through a food mill.
The Food Dictionary at epicurious.com describes a food mill as: "A kitchen utensil that can be best described as a mechanical SIEVE. It has a hand-turned paddle that forces food through a strainer plate at the bottom, thereby removing skin, seeds and fiber. Some food mills come equipped with several interchangeable plates with small, medium and large holes."
© Copyright Barron's Educational Services, Inc. 1995 based on THE FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst.
This is the one I have, a 2 qt. capacity one.
Kitchen and cookware shops carry them, and they are handy for applesauce, tomato sauce, and many other kitchen tasks.
As another vendor states: "This timeless, hand-operated, kitchen tool is a multi-function wonder that removes objectionables, like tiny seeds, skins, fiber and cores from almost any fruit or vegetable." And: "Outstanding for homemade sauces, purees, jams, soups and natural baby foods."
I've had this one for many years, and, though I don't use it often, I wouldn't be without it. Besides the obvious advantage of being able to cook fruits and veggies without first removing the skins, seeds, stems, etc, and then being able to remove them with a few cranks of the handle, if you want to puree something without causing alot of bubbles (as electric machines do),this is the way to go. (I'm thinking, for instance, of the Italian pureed soup called "passati", or, literally, "passed through"-- in other words, passed through the mill.)
Anna Thomas's ITALIAN PRUNE PLUM JAM (small batch, with my variation in technique)
"This is made from the plums that become prunes when they are dried. In some markets I've seen them called prunes, and in others Italian plums, or prune plums, but they are the very small plums with the egg-like shape and the dusky purple skin." Anna Thomas
Note from Bryanna: My jam was not really thick, but spreadable.
1 1/2 lbs small dark plums or Italian prune plums (see Cooking Tips)
3/4 cups organic unbleached granulated sugar
3 Tbs fresh (or bottled organic) lemon juice
Wash the plums well, and combine them with the sugar and lemon juice in a medium stainless steel pot. Stir slowly over very low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Raise the heat and boil the plums gently for about 5 minutes, or until the plums soften and split, skimming off any foam that forms on top. Pour the plums into your food mill (balanced over a pot) and turn until all of the pulp goes through and only the pits and a few skins are left behind. (Scrape all the pulp off the bottom of the food mill into the pot with the rest.)
Return the strained mixture to the heat and bring to a gently simmer again. Cook about 3 or 4 minutes more. When the fruit seems to be thickening slightly, turn off the heat and put a tablespoon or two of the jam on a small plate, then put the plate in the freezer. After a couple of minutes, check the test batch. If it has a jam-like consistancy, you're done. If it's too runny, boil the jam for a few more minutes and test again.
Ladle the jam into clean half-pint jars and keep it in the refrigerator. It should last for a couple of weeks, but it will be eaten before then.
Yield: about 1 1/2 cups
Nutrition (per 2 Tbs.): 75.4 calories; 1% calories from fat; 0.2g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 0.0mg sodium; 94.0mg potassium; 19.3g carbohydrates; 0.8g fiber; 18.2g sugar; 18.5g net carbs; 0.4g protein; 1.4 points.