When I first read the craigslist ad for our current apartment, I was seduced by all sorts of words and phrases, like “dishwasher,” “washer and drier,” and “backyard,” but the kicker was “fruit trees.” Oh to live in a house with fruit trees in the backyard! I was sold. In reality, it was in our price range, conveniently located, and looked nice online. But wouldn’t you love to rent a place just for the fruit trees?
The plums come in one giant, speedy crop, dropping into our backyard over the course of a week. That first year we missed the plums entirely. By the time summer rolled around again, I’d completely forgotten my initial romance with the idea of fruit trees in our backyard. We picked plums last year and ate them right off the tree, perched on the railroad ties that define our garden bed. Then just as quickly as they came, the plums were gone, with the rotten remnants we hadn’t been able to reach now littering the ground.
This year I was determined to be better prepared for the rush of plums. Still work and a crazy week kept me out of the backyard in the afternoons, and I nearly missed the plums again. When I realized that I was in the midst of a stone fruit windfall, I promptly stopped all other, less important, tasks, and headed outside with a giant bowl to rescue all the plums I could get my hands on. Once I’d chopped them up and removed the pits, I had nearly 15 cups of plums.
Last year I made a plum tart, but this year there just seemed to be only time enough for jam. One cup of sugar per three cups of plums, and the whole mess dumped into the biggest pot I own. (Carefully following the “Always start out with a larger pot than what you think you need.” advice from Julia Child) As it bubbled away, I filled the second largest pot I own with water, and set to sterilizing the few jars I could lay my hands on. (For any and all canning questions, I refer you to the fabulous Food in Jars blog)
As the jam got thicker and stickier and tastier (despite knowing better, I always seem to burn my tongue on hot jam), I started filling the sterilized jars. I filled them not quite full and took a paper towel to wipe away any spills before sealing them and carefully lowering them into the boiling water bath, praying all the while. I’ve certainly never had a jar explode on me while canning, but I think a little defense goes a long way.
I had too much jam, and too few jars, so I chopped up some crystallized ginger I had on hand, and tossed it in with the last of the jam. I let this cook for another 30 minutes or so, before letting it cool and scooping it all into some tupperware to keep in the fridge. The plum-ginger jam is delicious right now, spread on sourdough toast or mixed into some yogurt. I’m hoping the regular plum jam will remind me in December that I got to the plums this summer just in the nick of time.