Can we talk about canning? The whole process has fascinated me for quite some time, but until recently I stayed far away from it. I was terrified I’d create jars swarming with bacterial toxins that cause botulism, inevitably killing folks. It scared me enough to keep from canning all together. Then I started researching MANY small batch jam and pickle recipes and realized that the bacteria that causes botulism cannot thrive in the environment that the majority of jam and pickle recipes create. The fruit and vinegar in these respective types of home canning situations are too acidic.
The desire for homemade jams and pickles absolutely outweighed my now seemingly irrational fear. So I started experimenting. Making jam is not difficult, so long as you follow some basic rule for safe canning. The heat used in proper canning seals the jars in a way that keeps air and little organisms from creeping in. The heating process also kills undesirable “ingredients” like bacteria, mold, and yeast, as well as the naturally occurring enzymes that cause food spoilage. Miracle food. :)
When I was gifted some plums from my mother-in-law’s neighbor, I already knew I was going to make a jam with them. In part because I don’t care for whole plums, but simultaneously enjoy their sweet tartness. A jam seemed like a good way to enhance the flavor of already delicious fruit. Since plums do have some sourness, I decided to incorporate apples for sweetness, and fresh ginger to deepen the overall flavor. The consistency of this jam was intentionally a bit chunky – I like the bits of sweet apple that keep their shape in the slightly tart surrounding jam.
I told my husband I knew it was good because after I’d jarred up all the jam, I didn’t share the leftovers clinging to the pot or my stirring spoon… I absolutely demolished every last remnant myself and couldn’t wait to eat more. I may also have unsealed one of the jars within 15 minutes of it coming out of the water bath, so I could have just one more spoonful (or five).
Ginger Apple Plum Jam
Yields about eight 8-oz. jars.
2 pounds santa rosa plums, firm ones do well
2 pounds fuji apples
2 cups unrefined cane sugar
zest and juice of one lime
1 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled
½ cup candied ginger, minced
Pomona’s Universal Pectin: follow instructions to make the calcium water, then use 4 tsp. calcium water, 2 tsp. pectin
Pit the plums, then dice them into tiny bite-sized pieces (think 1/4-inch cubes, at the biggest). Core the apples, then dice them in the same way as the plums. Place them in a large stock pot, along with the lime juice, and zest, then let the fruit sit for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place a metal rack or extra screw bands from the canning jars, into the bottom of a heavy, large stockpot, which is at least 3-inches deeper than the height of the jars. Fill the pot with water, then arrange the jars you plan to fill in the pot (without the lids and bands), cover the pot and bring the water to just under boiling. Reduce the heat to low. Place the lids in a small saucepan, cover them with cold water and bring to a simmer. Keep at a simmer (NOT boiling!) while you make the jam.
Stir the pectin and sugar together, then set aside. Place your stock pot filled with fruit on the stove. Very finely mince the ginger and add it to the fruits. Add the calcium water, nutmeg, and candied ginger. Stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, occasionally stirring. Once the mixture reaches boiling, quickly stir in the sugar/pectin mixture, continuing to stir until the pectin is completely incorporated. Mash to thicken the jam, using a potato masher. Bring the heat to about 220-degrees. Remove from heat.
Drain the the hot water out of the jars that have been simmering. Place the jars on a flat surface. Ladle the hot jam into each jar, leaving about 1/4-inch of space on top. Wipe the rims and sides. Lift a lid from the pot of simmering water, shake it dry, then seal the top of each jar with the lid and a screw band. Fill all of the jars like this.
Place the jars on the rack in your large stock pot, still filled with water. Cover and water-process the jars for 10 minutes (begin timing once they’re gone in the water. After 10 minutes, remove the jars from the hot water without tilting them. Let them cool completely at room temperature.
After 15-24 hours, check the seal on each jar by undoing the screw band and checking the lid. You should be able to safely lift the jar by the lid without it shifting or coming off. If the jar has properly sealed, it’s shelf-stable for up to a year. If it didn’t seal, place the jar in the fridge and eat sooner than later.