Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Plum & Basil Jam

Fresh flavours all bottled up - plum & basil jam

It's been a while since I made jam, the last being the strawberry jam. Figured it was time to make another one. I regularly gawk at all the lovely fruit at the market, and vow to look for suitable recipe to preserve the little beauties. I either forget, or the fruits go out of season by the time I find a good recipe. However, I came across a kind of generic recipe which I am keeping as my go-to jam recipe. The rule of thumb would be to buy approximately 1.5kgs of prepared fruit i.e. if you buy pineapple, make sure there's about 1.5 kgs fruit left once the heavy crown and skin has been cut off. Some fruits have a high pectin content and therefore does not call for commercial pectin. Stone fruits have a lot of pectin in their skin, so do not remove the skin when you make the jam. (Pectin is the stuff that makes your jam gel and well, become jammy). Some of the fruits that are high in pectin are apples, currants, oranges and plums; medium pectin content are found in blueberries, raspberries, cherries and rhubarb while low-pectin fruits include apricots, peaches and strawberries.

There seems to be a lot of scientific calculations where jam making is concerned, turning people off at the prospect of a failed result. But basically what you need to make jam is fruit, sugar, pectin (found in the fruit or store bought) and acid (lemon juice). It needs to come to a full boil for 1 minute to bring it all together. If the jam is too runny, don't worry about it – it will taste great over ice cream or pancakes.

So I set off to make plum jam as the fruit vendor had these lovely purple plums for sale. I like the purple ones as they have a slightly tart skin. I decided to throw in some basil leaves in there too. I like the taste of basil, and wanted to see what the result would be like. Leave them out if you don't like them.

The combination possibilities are endless – mango & pineapple, plum & blueberry, peach & blueberry.... see what moves you. Note that this is only a guide and the 'jammy' texture will highly depend on what fruit you're using.

Purple plums 1.5 kgs

Sugar 1 ½ cups

Lemon juice 2 tbsp

Basil, a handful

Wash the plums well, halve and stone them, then cut into chunks. Put them into a large bowl with the sugar and lemon juice. Set aside for about an hour. Pour the whole lot, juices included, into a large pot over medium high heat, and stir frequently for about 20 minutes. Skim off foam. If you like, mash the fruit with a potato masher. Add the basil leaves. Let it boil over a medium heat for about 30 minutes. Do the cold plate test. (Drop a little jam onto a cold plate. The jam should remain a 'ball' which will wrinkle a little when you push it with your finger). Cool and store in airtight containers.

If you intend to keep it for a long time, you can bottle it. Be sure to follow the steps to sterilise and store in bottles, or the jam may spoil. Personally I do not do this as I don't have the equipment, so I make smaller quantities.

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