Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Whereby I Create a Jam Recipe

I started canning in earnest a bit over a year ago.  I progressed from the sugar-laden and pectin-set recipes on the back of the Certo box to recipes that featured interesting and unique flavor combinations.  I learned how to set my jams without boxed pectin.  I was evolving. 

I started reading the Food in Jars blog and bought a copy of Tart and Sweet.  Both taught me a lot of the basics of canning as well as some more sophisticated techniques.  I have since made a lot of delicious jams - all using someone else's recipe. But Marisa recently challenged her readers to create their own small-batch jam recipe, and here I am today. 

I found Italian Prune Plums at my local Farmer's Market last week and quickly loaded up my basket with them.  I love plums, as do my kids, and I couldn't wait to introduce them to these little gems.  But while they gobble up fruit of nearly every kind, they turned their noses up at these.  "They're too small, Mommy."  "They got all banged up in my lunchbox, Mommy.  They're too soft."

While I had eaten my fair share of them, I had bought enough for three people and only one was eating them.  They were starting to get too soft and there was no way I could eat them all before they were too far gone.  Jam seemed like the perfect solution.

After they were pitted and chopped, I had 14oz. of plums.  While plain plum jam is one of my most favorite jams, these plums were crying for a bit more.  I opened up my spice drawer and looked for inspiration.

Ummmm.... Bay leaf?  Yes. And??  Uh.... Balsamic. Yes, balsamic.  It was such a small batch that it cooked in no time - not more than 10 minutes in my very wide jam pot and it was ready to be canned. 


The finished product is a gorgeous ruby color.  It's slightly spicy and very earthy.  Complex and deep.  I kind of love it and wish I had more than just three 4oz jars of it.  It was delicious on warm popovers this morning.  Sweet and jammy and a lovely addition to brunch with a dear friend.  The very same jam was seemingly transformed this afternoon when paired with with whole grain toast and some shaved pork tenderloin that was left over from last night's dinner.  The sweetness of the fruit and the savory notes from the bay leaf paired perfectly with the lightly seasoned tenderloin.

I love the versatility of this jam, and I hope you do, too.  A huge thank-you to Marisa for expanding my horizons and showing me that I can create a recipe nearly as easily as I can follow one.

Fresh Prune Jam with Bay and Balsamic
14oz. of Italian Prune Plums, chopped
5oz. of sugar
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

Combine chopped fruit, sugar, and bay leaf.  Leave to macerate at room temperature for an hour.  Add balsamic vinegar and cook until jam sets using whatever testing method you prefer (I am partial to the spoon sheeting test).  Because this jam cooks so quickly, the fruit doesn't have a lot of time to break down - you might find that you need to use a potato masher to make the syrup and the fruit a more homogenized mixture.

Once jam is set, pour into sterilized jars and process for 10 minutes.  This tiny recipe yielded a mere 3/4 pint - just enough to enjoy a bit now and have a half-pint waiting for me in my pantry on a dreary winter day.