After you read a post like this one from the Hungry Tigress, the idea of plum jam starts to gel (if like me, you’ve always been iffy on plums in general). I love peaches, apricots, cherries, and nectarines. Plums just never topped my list. Too tart or too sweet with too chewy and too bitter skin. Looking for just the right plum was just too much trouble. But that post made me rethink the juicy stonefruit. When I was on the raspberry rampage a few weeks back, I ran into these bags of black plums. I don’t usually get into bagged fruit. There’s something a little deceptive to me about packaging produce in that manner. Surely the fruit packers can’t arrange them in the bags so perfectly as to hide bad spots, but I do think shipping them in bags makes them more prone to bruising than if they’re in flats.
I poked through the bag as best I could and felt satisfied that there were no bad plums in the mix. With only this spiced plum jam from the Tigress in mind, I set to work. I truly followed the recipe to the letter….until after 35 minutes of cooking the mixture, I realized there was no set coming. So, I pulled out my jar of pectin and sprinkled in 2Tbsp of classic pectin slowly. I tried to be a purist, relying on whatever pectin might have come from the fruit and the lemon zest I added. At some point, though, I think you have to decide whether you want a jam that is cooked down to a dense mushy mess of sugar, maybe even slightly charred, or a jam that still tastes like the fresh fruit that it once was.
At the essence of my preservationist passion is that underlying current. Some say that you can certainly taste the pectin that’s added. Some imply that it’s unnatural. Some just seem to not like it because you buy it as an additive. However, my research has led me to believe that most of the commercial pectins are derived fairly closely from the skins of citrus fruit. While it’s more processed to be sure, it has generally helped me to make better jams than the ones that I’ve made without pectin. There are exceptions – blueberry jam comes to mind.
Still, when a recipe for a jam or jelly doesn’t call for pectin, I put on my skepti-specs and have the handy jar on standby anyway. Maybe it’s the intense humidity in my part of the world, but I’ve found it to be necessary to maintain the fullest fruit flavors possible. That’s my soapbox for the evening. To each his or her own. There are marvelous jams made without it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all jams must be made without it to be delicious.
The jam is my new favorite. The spices come through, but don’t overpower. The plum is tart and sweet, full of the best plummy flavor – to some degree manipulated by lemon juice and sugar, although I can attest to the sweet juiciness of the originals. I will definitely make this one again. Hopefully, soon.