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How to make plum jam

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The Rowdy Chowgirl

(Read caption) It is plum season and piles of fruit in tones from deep purple to a delicate mottled green are ready for eating.

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Last week the plums started arriving at work, in bags and baskets, distributed to various strategic places in offices and common area. Piles of fruit, in tones from deep purple to a delicate mottled green, enticing all of us to stop and nibble on one or to grab a handful for later.

It is plum season in Seattle, and so many people have trees in their yard producing a bountiful harvest of fruit. My plum trees are old and gnarled, covered in lichen. I haven’t seen any fruit from them in years. They are still beautiful, though useless. So when one of my coworkers, perhaps with a tone of slight despair over the quantity of fruit his trees were producing, offered to bring me a whole bag of plums, I eagerly accepted. I would make jam, I said, and would bring him back a jar of it.

The plums duly arrived the next morning. Ripe fruit does not wait, so I stopped on the way home for some extra lids and pectin, and got out my canning tools.

I have made enough jam by this point to know that it can be done in a few hours on a weeknight, should the need arise. But that is without any dallying, or I will end up still in the steamy kitchen, sticky-haired and cross, after my usual bedtime.

So without loss of time, I gathered up jars and rings and canning utensils got them in the dishwasher. And I filled the big canner and put it on the stove, as that much water takes nearly forever to come to a boil.

Then I took a moment to consider recipes. Jam is just fruit, water, sugar, pectin and heat, in varying ratios. I knew I wanted a basic reduced-sugar recipe, so that the bright tartness of the fruit would not be overwhelmed. The big controversy in plum jam recipes is whether to peel the plums. Some cooks contend that the peels become tough and bitter. Others leave the peels on and are quite happy with the results. I applied Occam’s Razor to this problem and took the simplest course. I left the peels on.

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