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 jam, including 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!
- 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
- 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.
- Day 2. Prepare canner, jars and lids. Boil jars for 10 minutes prior to filling in order to sterilize.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- I like the lime flavor with nectarine & chile, but you could substitute the zest & juice of 1 lemon should you prefer.
- 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.
Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year.