I just learned that August 2nd is the International Friendship Day. I had no idea such holiday even existed, but if anything is worth celebrating, it is certainly friendship – a wonderful relation and strong bond between people that multiplies the good in life and divides life’s sorrows. They say there is nothing better than a friend unless it’s a friend with chocolate, but I think a friend who gives you summer fruit to make cakes and jam from must be a very close second.
You see, I was a lucky recipient of a paper bag full of Mirabelle golden plums last week, and I can’t tell you how happy the gift of those fragrant sweet beauties has made me. Things have been kind of crazy around here lately, and when a friend of mine called if I wanted to go plum picking with her, I had to tell her there was no way I’d be able to fit fruit picking in. But it was hard to say no, because in my mind I was already imagining all the juicy tarts, succulent cakes, and sweet compotes I could make. And I suspect said friend must be a pretty good mind reader, because she went and picked the plums for me. If that’s not true friendship, I don’t know what is 🙂
Mirabelles are small and smooth plums with golden yellow flesh that is full of flavor. The riper they are the sweeter they will be. They also are very juicy and quite hard to pit – after pitting the first three it was clear I could forget the cakes and tarts with nicely arranged fruit on top. I ended up cutting the flesh around the pit, but a lot of it still stuck to the pit. When I was done, there was this huge bowl full of fruit skins, scraps of dark yellow flesh and sweet juice, and a slight change of plans was needed to be made: When life gives you mushy fruit, make jam.
There is nothing complicated in jam making – you basically cook up fruit with sugar and optional pectin, and keep it boiling for about 15 minutes or so, until the jam is thick enough to your liking. I like thinner jam to spread on toasts and to top yogurt, and thicker consistency to fill dumplings with. All you have to do is wash and sterilize some glass jars and then dump the fruit with sugar/pectin into a deep pot and get stirring, as jam likes to stick. I love everything about jam making: Who needs aromatherapy candles and meditation sessions, when you can simply stand over a pot full of wonderful fruity aromas with a wooden spoon, let your thoughts wander where they want, and you even get jars of homemade jam out of it as a bonus?! To test if the jam is done, put a small saucer in the fridge beforehand, and after about ten minutes you can start testing if the jam has set. Drizzle small amount of jam on the plate, return it to the fridge for couple of minutes, and then take it out and tilt it slightly. If the jam doesn’t run and your finger leaves a tiny crack on the surface of the jam, it is ready. Ladle it into the preheated jars, firmly screw on the tops, and process the jam in a water bath (or, if you made only a small batch, you can skip the water bath and keep the jam in the refrigerator).
Since the plums were so sweet, I decided to cut the sweetness with lime juice, and spice it up with some fresh ginger, just because I think plums and ginger are a match made in heaven. I didn’t expect the jam to turn this dark and thought it would be more yellow in color. As it is, it doesn’t look much different than my apricot jam. But it s finger-licking delicious: sweet and little bit citrusy, with just a hint of ginger spiciness. Perfect accompaniment for all your toast-y and pancake-y needs!
Mirabelle Ginger Jam
(recipe makes about ten 8 oz./250 ml jars)
- 2 kg (4 lbs.) Mirabelle golden plums, pitted
- 1 ½ kg (3 lbs.) white sugar
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon (7 teaspoons) freshly grated ginger
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- First, wash the glass jars and lids in hot soapy water. Rinse and place them on a big shallow baking sheet. Place the jars into a cold oven and set the temp to 325 °F (162 °C). (place the jars on a baking sheet in a cold oven, turn the temp to 325 °F/162 °C, and when the oven reaches the preset temp, the jars are sterilized and ready to be filled with hot jam.
- Chop the plums, or, if you like smooth jam, run plums with their skins and juices through the food processor or a blender. Transfer the mixture into a big deep pot. Place a small saucer into the refrigerator, so it will be ready when you start testing if the jam has set.
- Add sugar, lime juice, lemon zest, and ginger (adjust the ginger quantity to your taste; I was a little worried the ginger would be overpowering, but it’s just right, only a slight hint). Bring to a rolling boil, lower the temp, and cook on a medium heat, stirring almost constantly for about 10 minutes. Keep skimming the foam gathering on the surface.
- After the first 10 minutes start testing the consistency. Remove the saucer from the fridge, drizzle a little bit of jam on it, and return it to the refrigerator for couple of minutes. The jam is ready if it doesn’t run (it can slowly ooze), and when you touch it with your finger, it leaves a tiny crack on the surface. If it’s still too runny, keep cooking and testing every 5 minutes.
- Ladle the hot jam into prepared jars (the jars still need to be warm/hot. If you ladle a hot jam into cold glass, the jars can break). Screw on the tops firmly.
- Process the jam in a water bath: Place the filled jars into a big shallow pan. Fill the pan with water so the jars are covered with at least 2 inches (5 cm) of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 – 10 minutes. Carefully remove the jars from the water and let them cool. Properly processed jam should keep in a cold dark place for a year or longer.