Summer-in-a-jar Jam: Italian prune plums

3 10 2009

The first vegetarian cookbook I ever received as a gift came from my uncle Will – a copy of Anna Thomas‘ 1972 Vegetarian Epicure. I was two years into college, and like grad student Thomas, my cooking was mostly vegetarian. My copy of VE was part kitchen bible and encyclopedia and part novel – I read it cover to cover, for both knowledge and fun. I memorized several of the recipes (potato peel broth, asparagus brisee, savory baked garbanzo beans) and improvised and evolved them to make them my own. That dog-eared copy of VE anchors my kitchen bookshelf. I’m eagerly awaiting my copy of Thomas’ newest book, Love Soup, where she’s turned her masterful kitchen touch to one of my favorite foods – soup.

Italian prune plums (with a little help from Azahar)

Italian prune plums (with a little help from Azahar)

Why all this love for a vegetarian cookbook that doesn’t include a single recipe for jam? Mainly because the author, Anna Thomas, is also the inspiration for the plum jam recipe I made today for Linsey Cake’s Summer-in-a-bottle Can-a-rama contest.

While searching for a small-batch recipe for those tiny end-of-summer stone fruits called Italian prune-plums, I stumbled on this improvisation on a prune-plum jam recipe insipired by — Anna Thomas. It must have appeared in VE2 or on her website, because it’s not in my copy of VE. But Thomas brings simplicity and bright summer goodness to this brilliant red plum jam, and like all of her recipes, the ingredients are the stars.

Prune Plum Jam (with a little help from Azahar)

Prune Plum Jam (with a little help from Azahar)

The recipe which inspired me appears on Bryanna’s Vegan Feast Kitchen blog, and is her adaptation of Thomas’ recipe. Like Bryanna, I also boiled my plums and ran them through the food mill. I also added splashes of balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest and a teaspoon of grated ginger to the recipe.

Bryanna quotes Thomas:“This is made from the plums that become prunes when they are dried. In some markets I’ve seen them called prunes, and in others Italian plums, or prune plums, but they are the very small plums with the egg-like shape and the dusky purple skin.” Anna Thomas

(inspired by recipes from Anna Thomas and Bryanna)

2 1/2 lbs small dark plums or Italian prune plums (about 20)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon grated ginger root

  • Wash and stem the plums. Cut in half, discarding the pits, and put the plums and balsamic vinegar in a medium-sized saucepan.
  • Bring to a boil over medium heat, and cook about five minutes or just until the plum puree start to split from the skins. Put the plums through a fine food mill to separate all the skins from the puree.
  • Measure the puree, adding water if needed to make 3 cups. Return the puree to the saucepan, along with the lemon juice, zest, grated ginger and sugar. Stir thoroughly until the sugar dissolves.
  • Continue to stir over medium heat. Keep the jam at a steady boil for 15 minutes (skim off any foam that rises) until the jam reaches the jellying point (212 degrees.) You can also dip a metal spoon into the jam, place it in the freezer for three minutes, and test for consistency that way.
  • Ladle the jam into clean half-pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Place lids and rings on the jars.
  • To process: seal the jars and process in a boiling water bath according to USDA directions.
  • To freeze: seal the bands and lids on the jars, and allow to cool to room temperature. Jam will keep it in the refrigerator for up to three weeks, and in the freezer for up to one year.

Yields about 4 cups

This post is part of the 1st Annual Can-a-rama Summer in a Bottle Challenge at Cake and Commerce.

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