The challenge for September is stone fruits: peaches, nectarines, apricots, for you gardening geeks all of ’em are in the family prunus. One of my fondest memories is of my parents taking us on a road trip to southern California to visit my grandmother (“Madame” for those of you keeping score); we would drive down US 101 through what was then the stone fruit capitol of the world, the Santa Clara Valley, nicknamed the Valley of Heart’s Delight (before it became Silicon Valley and everything was torn up).
Anyway, we would pull over to fruit stands and buy lugs of peaches or apricots or whatever else to bring to my grandmother. She would send us home with a crate of preserves. It was a symbiotic relationship, and completely satisfying. And so X number of years later, I find myself living in the Santa Clara Valley and making my own jam.
Full circle as they say.
Anyway, I was trying to figure out what to make for this month’s challenge when my sister (Eightgrain) called me and asked if I had Madame’s recipe for plum cake; she wanted to make it for her grandchild to carry on the tradition. As I was the only one of us little ‘Grains to learn French, I had Madame’s old recipe box and dug through until I found it and sort of translated it. I made it a few times just to be sure before passing it on, and the flavors were so good, I knew I had to try to recreate the flavor profile as a jam for the challenge. It’s taken a little longer than usual to get it right, but damn! this jam is the shizzle.
Plum Jam with Almond
My Italian friend Nancy gave me a bottle of Amaretto for Christmas, and I never really knew what to do with it. I opened it up, and the smell of almond blossoms was so overpowering, I knew I found my secret to give this jam some depth. If you have issues with liquor, you can add a few drops of real almond extract to the jam just before processing.
- 2 1/2 pounds of plums, slightly under ripe (I used ones called Yellow Mango) pitted and chopped — you’ll end up with about 2 pounds of fruit.
- 3 cups of sugar – I use organic C&H
- 1/4 Cup of Water
- 1/4 Cup of lemon juice, about 2 large lemons – from a real lemon, not the nasty stuff from the bottle or the squeazy lemon
- 1/4 cup of Amaretto
- Combine the chopped plums, sugar, water, and lemon juice and bring it to a boil in a non-reactive pan. Keep the fruit moving about the pan using a heat-proof spatula and turn down the heat to simmer to reduce the liquid and set the jell. You want to see it bubbling merrily, but not a roiling boil.
- Using the spatula, mash down the fruit pieces from time to time. You don’t have to be obsessive, but you will want this to be spreadable.
- Test for the jell point on a frozen plate: after at least 30 minutes (for me, anyway), take a spoonful of the jam and put it on a frozen plate and back in the fridge for a minute. If you can split the jam, like Charlton Heston in that movie, then you’ve reduced it enough.
- Take the pan off of the heat and stir in the Amaretto. It will bubble up a little bit at first, and it will loosen the jam up a bit, so when you are testing for jell, remember that you will be adding a little liquid to it.
- Fill the hot jam jars and proceed to process following the Tigress’ instructions on canning
- I processed for 10 minutes. It made about 4 Cups of jam.
- I also made this jam substituting Pluots for plums, and I think I like it even more. What’s a Pluot, you ask? Well, imagine a forbidden love, a Romeo and Juliette story of two fruits, a Plum and an Apricot, who, instead of dying in the third act get married and have a kid. That kid is a pluot, or sometimes called an aprium. It gets the best of both worlds.
- Fun fact: those little sample-sized bottles of booze at the Liquor Stove (BevMo here in California) hold just about exactly 1/4 cup. Amaretto problem solved!
- One of the less successful batches, I tried using cherry brandy (Madame was a bit of a booze fiend and made a fruit compote that was doused with Kirsch), but it was overpowering.
- About adding liquor to food: never, Ever, EVER pour booze out of the bottle directly into anything over a hot stove. It can catch fire and run up into the bottle and explode. Measure the stuff in a pyrex cup and pour it into the pot after you have taken it off the flame. Why chance it to save a few seconds?
- If you have a good middle eastern food store, you can sometimes find almond flower water, which is really the scent and add a little of that. It won’t change the flavor, but it does give the jam a nice almond scent. A drop or two of pure almond extract will add the flavor; be careful though, if you add too much, you won’t get the plum from the jam, add too much and it will taste like tree bark.
- What would I do differently: nothing, except maybe make more! I think besides the usual uses for jam, this will make a really nice glaze for a gallette or other tart. I’m interested to see how it pairs with pork, too.