I feel like I've stepped into a new realm of domesticity--making my own jam. My sister-in-law Lori has a plum tree in her backyard and makes plum jam every summer. We usually get two or three jars from her stash, and let me tell you, we ration those bad boys out to last us a whole year. Safeway had plums on sale recently for a really reasonable price, so I thought to myself, "Why don't I just make plum jam for us and we can have more than just a few jars of it?" So I went and bot a ton of plums. Okay, not a literal ton, but it was just about five pounds. My mother-in-law had given me their plum jam recipe at one point, so I had that to go on, and my mom suggested I talk to my grandma about making jam because she's made A LOT of it over the years.
I headed to Walmart for the necessary supplies after texting some with Lori and getting a tutorial over the phone from my grandma. Walmart has a pretty big canning section which was cool. I bought a box of jars and a canning utensils set which had all the little things I needed:
I thought my friend Jen might want in on the jam making action, and sure enough she did. So Friday afternoon after we took our kids to Peter Piper Pizza for lunch (and to blow off some energy running around since it's too insanely hot here for them to play outside), we got started on the jam making endeavor. Lori had said they follow the directions in the Sure Jell packet, so that's what we did. I had to read through it several times before it made sense, so I'm hoping I can make my directions here slightly clearer. Keep in mind, this is just for plum jam but the instructions in the Sure Jell box had instructions for just about every kind of jam you could imagine, so consult that if you want to do something different. The Sure Jell website has all the recipes on there, too.
6 cups prepared fruit (about 4 lb. fully ripe plums)
1/2 cup water
1 box SURE.JELL Fruit Pectin
1/2 tsp. butter or margarine (optional)
8 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl (See tip below.)
Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.
Pit plums but do not peel. Finely chop or grind fruit. Place fruit in saucepan; add water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 5 min. Measure exactly 6 cups prepared fruit into 6- or 8-qt. saucepot.
Stir pectin into fruit in saucepot. Add butter to reduce foaming, if desired. Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 min., stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.
Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches; add boiling water if needed.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 min. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger. (If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)
Okay, the directions from the website (what you just read above) were a lot easier than what was in the package of pectin, probably because that one has generic instructions for all fruits whereas this was specific to plum jam.
Anyway, instead of chopping up the plums we put them through the food grinder attachment I have for my KitchenAid mixture. It worked great!! We cut the plums in halves or quarters and then just stuck them in there and let the mixer do the work for us. I'm all for outsourcing or automating what I can.
And after jam instructional call with my grandma, I decided to skip the water bath step at the end. She said in all her years of making jam (which is a lot) she'd never done that because she figured you cook the fruit initially so why do that step. Her jam was always fantastic, so I figured I'd skip it too. Plus then I didn't have to buy the special canning pot and rack. I'm also all for saving money when I can!
We kind of goofed up a little because I had looked at the jelly section originally, not jam, so we ended up using too many plums. I measured out how much we had after the plums had cooked and found we had eight cups instead of six, so we did a little math to figure out how much extra sugar we'd need and added that so we didn't waste any. And then once everything was mixed into the pot Jen says, "You know, we didn't add any extra Sure Jell." Oops. We figured at worst it would just be a little runny but still edible.
The husband decided to make breakfast yesterday morning and we topped our toast with some of the jam. Fan-freakin-tastic, as Jen would say!!! It was so good. And it wasn't at all runny, I was pleasantly surprised. The only thing I would change the next time I make jam (and there will be a next time!) is to use the low sugar Sure Jell because seeing a mixing bowl with eight cups of sugar (actually it ended up being over 10 cups) was just disgusting. Apparently that's the recipe Lori uses, I just forgot about that when I went to buy my Sure Jell.
I'm pretty much hooked on canning now after this jam experiment. I can't wait to make more jam, and I want to try making pickles, and I may try canning pasta sauce, too. I tell you, I'm hooked! It also motivates me to have a garden next year because how awesome (and incredibly domestic) would it be to can the fruit and vegetables that I grow?!
But I draw that line at owning livestock.
Here's Jen putting the plums through the grinder:
Our "chopped" plums:
Fruit with sugar and pectin added: