Jamming a small storm

I think this will be the year of small-scale experiments, partly because canning buddy has all the recipe books and partly because my temporary home has a small kitchen without much in the way of work surface.

But I just can’t go past the farmers’ markets without buying right now, and even I can’t eat all the fresh fruit I buy. Chutney takes time and recipes, so I’m a-jamming.

I started with apricots came first, because apricot jam is one of the easiest jams to make and to set and because apricots have such a scarily short season. The recipe, from a random blog that seemed to be more about computers than about jam, looked like a cinch, even if I was a little suspicious of the fact that she recommended 25 minutes boiling time. But the proportions seemed good, and I loved the idea of cracking apricot kernels with a hammer to get the little apricot almonds out. (It turns out there’s quite an art to this one — a proper whack smashes the kernel to smithereens, while a tap does nothing.)

Let’s just say my jam set like a charm after 10 minutes, and even then I have little streaks of black caramelized sugar where it started sticking to the pan as I looked away to maneuver jars out of their sterilizing water. It made four jars, a respectably small number.

My version of the recipe:

Apricot jam

5 cups stoned and quartered apricots
3-3/4 cups sugar
juice of 1-1/2 lemons
kernels from 8-10 apricots

Allow the first three ingredients to marinate for a couple of hours so the sugar half dissolves and the mixture is pretty liquid. Heat until the sugar dissolves completely, and then at a rolling boil for 10 minutes. Stir like crazy, so it doesn’t stick. Bottle in sterilized jars, with a couple of kernels inside each jar to offer an almondy bitterness.

From there I moved on to a yellow plum jam, because the yellow plums looked so good and because I’ve never made a jam out of yellow plums before. The first few recipes I found online talked about stewing the fruit with water first, and then passing the whole mess through a food mill, which didn’t seem like the way I wanted to go. I don’t add water to jams, I don’t have a food mill and I want texture not puree.

It was time for another experiment:

Yellow plum jam
5 cups yellow plums, stoned and quartered
3-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger
juice of 1/2 a lemon
juice of 1 lime (I was out of lemons)

Same method as above. First it foams, then it boils, then it sets, just like that. Seven minutes boiling was plenty. Five might have been enough.

Early tastings:

Apricot jam is awesome. It concentrates the taste of the apricots in a perfect mixture of taste and texture. No formal rating yet, but this one is heading for a four. The caramel streaks are actually quite pretty, even if they are not supposed to be there.

Plum jam really did set, and it’s satisfyingly tart. But I can’t actually taste the ginger, and I can’t actually identify the tartness as plum at all. To make matters worse the plums have melted away to nothing, which leaves something almost like a pulp with skins, rather than a jam with chunks. It looks beautiful though. It will probably rate a 3.

I have lots of cherries to eat my way through too. But the cherry pitter is in a box somewhere with the rest of the stuff I was sure I wouldn’t need this summer. Any ideas of what to cook with cherries that still have pits?

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