Plum, Nectarine & Chile Jam

I’ve been a slacker on putting up fruit this summer. Sure, I picked some strawberries: but I only got 10 lbs and I froze most of those (though I did make two small batches of jamincluding a strawberry, rhubarb & ginger knockout that I never got around to telling you about). There was a ton of rhubarb, and 40 lbs of cherries, so maybe I just petered out early? Because blueberries have passed me by, except for a early, short picking session with Kate, as have peaches, I fear. There may be a few blackberries left out there, but maybe not. I didn’t even attempt to forage for wineberries in July, and raspberries? None of those either. I looked around the farmer’s market this morning and saw apples & pears, but not a berry in sight; and next week is Labor Day! How did that happen?

I did see lots of red currant action this summer (including more recipes that I haven’t told you about), some black currant scones and a gorgeous black currant jam from Half Pint Preserves. I think that eating seasonally is just like that: some years are all about blueberries & peaches, other years you are drowning in eggplant but keep bringing home plums, nectarines and currants. This haphazard little jam was born out of the random, too-beautiful-too-resist plums and nectarines that I keep bringing home from the market. I’ll pick up three or four, maybe five nectarines: just to munch on, mind you, because it’s been a very busy summer and I’m trying to reign in the canning a bit, since the shelves are fully stocked and there is still plenty left from last year. But those nectarines get hidden in the fruit drawer, or get soft too quickly for me to enjoy out of hand, and something else must be done. Drying them perhaps. Or tossing into a fresh salsa. Or a preserve with watermelon & mint. Or maybe: a spicy plum jam.

I don’t know what it is about me and chiles in jam, but man: this plum jam is a winner. Spicy, sweet, bright, jewel-toned reddish purple, with a few nectarines floating in the jelly, just for a pop of yellow. I overcooked this one just the slightest bit and the set came out a bit too firm for my liking: keep a close eye on it as it nears the set point, because an extra minute of cooking will take it from syrup to very firm. The flavor is fantastic: I love the lime here, though I think lemon could work nicely too, and the chiles really tie everything together. This one I will eat on toast, but I think I will enjoy looking at the jars on the shelf for a while first. After all, blueberries will be back again next year. In the meantime, I have spicy plum jam!

Plum, Nectarine & Chile Jam

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lbs plums, rinsed, pitted and sliced
  • 3/4 lb nectarines, rinsed, pitted, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb (2 cups) sugar (organic evaporated cane juice)
  • zest & juice of 2 large limes, preferably organic
  • 10 tiny dried red chile peppers (I used piquin)
  • pinch salt

METHODS

  1. Day 1. Combine plums, nectarines, sugar, lime zest & juice, chiles and salt. Stir well, then weight the fruit down with a small plate, cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Day 2. Prepare canner, jars and lids. Boil jars for 10 minutes prior to filling in order to sterilize.
  3. Transfer fruit + juice to a large, heavy, wide-bottomed preserving pan or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over high heat, without stirring. Continue to boil, stirring only minimally, until jam reaches the set point: 220 degrees F on an accurate thermometer (or a dollop of hot jam wrinkles after 2 minutes on a frozen plate), about 15 minutes.
  4. Ladle hot fruit into hot, sterilized jars to 1/4-inch head space. Wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

Yields 3 and 1/2 cups.

OPTIONS

  1. The 5-minute processing time is sufficient to ensure a good seal for your jars, but not sufficient to destroy any bacteria that may have been present on the jars prior to filling, hence the 10-minute pre-boil to sterilize jars. The shorter processing time helps to keep the fruit fresh-tasting and to minimize effects on the set: however, should you so desire, you may process jars for the standard 10 minutes as recommended by the USDA.
  2. I like the lime flavor with nectarine & chile, but you could substitute the zest & juice of 1 lemon should you prefer.
  3. If you can’t source the tiny piquin chiles, about 2 or 3 Arbol chiles should give you about the same amount of heat, or really, any dried red chile will work. Chop larger chiles first if you intend to leave them in the jam; for less heat, macerate with the chiles then remove prior to cooking.

STORE

Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year.

SEASON

Summer.

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15 comments

    • Hi Mary,

      You can use fresh peppers, as long as you understand that they are a low-acid food and will affect the overall pH of the jam. There is plenty of acid here, between the plums, lime & nectarines, so it can easily handle a jalapeno or two. Just don’t go crazy with the peppers in order to keep the recipe safely acidic for water-bath canning.

    • Hi Cindy,

      The preserve contains plenty of natural pectin from the plums & nectarines: the overnight maceration time helps to evenly distribute pectin throughout the syrup. This is already what would be considered a “low sugar” preserve, with only about 1/3rd by weight of the amount of sugar as there is fruit. The problem with lowering the sugar in this particular recipe is that you won’t have enough syrup for a “preserve” style; i.e. fruit suspended in a jelly. There are two things you could try: one is to add fruit juice or wine to make up the liquid you’ll sacrifice in lowering the sugar, although you will likely need to add some form of pectin in order to reach a gel; the other is to add 1 or 2 cans of frozen, concentrated apple juice (or grape juice; white grape is particularly nice) – there is enough natural sugar and pectin in those to form a gel without adding any additional pectin.

      Hope that helps,
      Kaela

  1. Cindy

    A family member gave me bags of black plums and nectarines which I needed to process in a very short period of time. I found this recipe while searching for something different to do with all the fruit. I will have to say this is our new family favorite….not to mention our friends favorite too. I needed to hide some jars of this wonderful jam for me! If you haven’t tried this, it’s one you should!!

  2. TerreLynn

    Ok. I have plenty of these ingredients (gonna substitute the Jalapeno peppers we grew in our garden), but I need the directions in CUPS & not POUNDS. How many cups of fruit, exactly, is 2 3/4 pounds? I reckon I am not an experienced enough preserver to have a scale in the home. Most of the recipes I follow have the fruit measured (after chopping & peeling, if peeling is necessary) in Cup amounts. Alabama is having a great summer, as far as rain & temperature is concerned, and I have already made preserves from strawberries, nectarines, Chilton County peaches, Alabama plums, California Santa Rosa plums, Apricots from Sultana, California, & locally grown figs that I froze last year. So, I have plenty of fruit preserves, but your recipe sounded too good to pass up. Thanks, from Montgomery, Alabama

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