Posts Tagged small batch jam

Not so plummy

A while back, as we completed the eco-friendly renovation of our two-candle home, I persuaded the spouse that we needed a couple of fruit trees in our pocket-handkerchief backyard. After mild debate, and total inability to find a greengage tree supplier anywhere in Ontario, we settled on a plumcot, which was billed as a high-yield, plum-apricot hybrid with a delicate taste and the ability to resist a Canadian winter, as well as two cherry-plum hybrids called chums.

But we’ve had that tree for about five years now, and I’m definitely not feeling the love. For the first couple of years we had no fruit at all, and then the squirrels climbed in and devoured the few green/yellow orbs that survived frost, rain and polar vortex. There was a lot more fruit this year, and I started to get my hopes up. But even before they ripened those damn squirrels knocked dozens off the tree, leaving sad, green fruit rotting on the ground. We picked the two baskets of what was left and let them ripen indoors, only to end up with an almost tasteless yellow-red clingstone plum. Not nice enough to eat, too few to freeze, so I decided on one small batch of jam, as the deciding factor on whether we keep the tree.

The verdict. Yes, my plumcots boil down quickly into a well-set, if curiously cloudy jam, with a pleasantly tart taste (from the lemon, perhaps?) and an interesting aroma that’s apricot as much as plum. But I don’t think it’s worth the effort of tending the tree, which isn’t a particularly good-looking specimen anyway. Time to cut our fruit tree losses and move on? But how do we get rid of the root, and what will we plant in its stead?


The good news. Our backyard raspberry patch had a few iffy years as well, especially after we dug the canes up so we could run the wiring for a fast charger for the spouse’s new electric car. But this year they are doing well, and I’m enjoying raspberries on cereal, with yogurt and fresh off the canes. Of course it’s not really a glut. You can never have too many raspberries.

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Simple small-batch stuff

Last year I discovered the small-batch jam, throwing together the ingredients needed for 2-3 jars and giving the botulism killing waterbath a miss because I knew I’d eat it all up so fast. And it was such fun that I’ve kept the process going this year, even though I’m also back with the bigger-volume madness like last month’s massive raspberry-plus adventure.

The sour cherry vanilla jam I wrote about here was one example of the small-scale stuff, and I riffed on that last week with a  similar cherry-redcurrant venture.  I added a cup of redcurrants instead of one of the apples, and I boosted the sugar too, because I was afraid of too much bite. It set within minutes.

Sour cherry redcurrant jam (based on last week’s recipe that was in turn based on Madelaine Bullwinkle’s Gourmet Preserves)
1 quart pitted sour cherries (I think it came out as 4 cups)
1 chopped, peeled apple
1 cup redcurrants
3 (and a bit) cups sugar

Simmer fruit for 15 minutes until they are soft. Add sugar, in 3-4  batches,  bringing back to a simmer between each lot of sugar and making sure one batch has dissolved before adding the next one.

Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 5 minutes until it sets.

Lovely taste, but a notch too much of a set, and it’s a little sweet. Three cups of sugar would  have been plenty. Maybe even two and a half.

It’s still a cherry jam though. I still suspect that cherries are best enjoyed raw.

So given that the super-short sour cherry season is already over, I moved on to apricots, after finding a farm stand in Niagara that had clearly escaped the apricot eating frost we got earlier this year.

I mixed a couple of recipes, did a lot of guesstimating and ended up with this.

It was actually a three-day recipe, because I chopped the apricots up on Sunday and let them sit with the sugar in the fridge until Tuesday because I didn’t think I had time to cook them up.

And then, of course, I realised that apricot jam takes no time at all to cook. I won’t post a recipe, because it was all a bit hit and miss, but basically I chopped up 2 quarts of apricots, added 3 cups of sugar and the juice of a lemon and a bit and let it sit around for a while. Then today, I cracked open the apricot stones to get the kernels and threw a couple of bitter kernels into each of my five sterilized jars.

Next stage was the boil, which took maybe 5 minutes, because the sugar was more or less melted before I started, and finally I threw in a handful of redcurrants to produce the red streaks we liked so much a few years back.

Curious factoids about apricot jam. It foams like mad at the start, but the foam disappears to produce a clear, apricot-colored jam. Watch it carefully. Apricot jam sets fast. Before you know it, it can burn.

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