Tiny beach plum jam

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I’ve moved! I’m no longer picking and jamming in the Finger Lakes of New York, but in Somerville, MA. I feel super lucky in my new neighborhood, because after only 9 days here, I’ve already made my first batch of local jam.

A really tiny batch of jam, not even filling an 8-ounce jar. But still. If you like jams with a good punch of tartness, this is the jam for you.

The plums themselves are tiny too–completely round and the size of marbles or Everlasting Gobstoppers. They’re beach plums, found up and down the northeast US near the sea. If you live in the UK or the northwest US, you may find similarly small cherry plums growing wild. I was exuberantly excited to find them here, because I’d once picked beach plums on Martha’s Vineyard and made 8 ounces of the best tart jam I can remember out of them.

These ones are on the unripe side–completely ripe ones will be dark purple–but that’s fine for jam. The beach plums are the small round plums in the pictures below.

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So even though it’s a little ridiculous to make such a small batch of jam, here’s how. It’ll set up very fast, because tart plums are full of pectin and because it’s such a small batch. Mine turned out a gorgeous ruby red color because all the plums I used were red.

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If you don’t have beach plums, use the tartest plums you can get.

A Tiny Batch of Tiny Plum Jam

Makes less than 8 ounces

Ingredients:
8 ounces small plums (unpitted)
1/4 cup water
About 1/2 cup sugar

1. Put a small plate in the freezer for later. Wash the plums and put them in a pot with the water. For beach plums, put them in whole. For larger plums, slice them into halves or quarters and remove the pits.

2. Simmer gently, covered, for about 15 minutes or until the plums are totally soft and their skin is wrinkled.

3. Turn off the heat, let the plums cool some, and then remove the pits. You can do this using a food mill, or by pressing the flesh/juice through a colander, but I found with a batch this small that it was easiest just to pick the pits out with my fingers. (Bonus: you feel like a kindergartener finger painting!)

4. Measure the amount of flesh/juice. I got 3/4 cup. Put it back into the pot.

5. For each cup of flesh/juice, add 3/4 cup sugar. So, if you get 3/4 cup flesh like I did, add 1/2 cup sugar.

6. Heat the jam until bubbles form (this won’t take much heat because it’s such a small volume). Cook, stirring, until the jam passes the wrinkle test when a small dab is put on the plate in the freezer.

7. Put the jam in a clean jar and store in the fridge.

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Black raspberry freezer jam

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If you want as much deliciousness with as little effort as possible, freezer jam is the jam for you. I wasn’t even going to post about it, because I made in 15 minutes before a doctor’s appointment and didn’t bother to take pictures. But it was so good.

There’s no canning needed. You don’t even cook the fruit at all. You mash the berries in a measuring cup, and boil the pectin and sugar in a separate pot. Because you cook the pectin and not the fruit, the flavor is incredibly fresh, more like eating freshly picked berries than any other jam. It does need to be stored in the freezer, though.DSCN0930

I used Sure-Jell low- or no-sugar-needed pectin. If you use a different kind of pectin, make sure to get one that works for freezer jam. Then just follow the manufacturer’s instructions for raspberry freezer jam, scaling the recipe down to 2 cups of berries (or whatever amount you have).

Looking for more freezer jam? Serious Eats has some tasty-looking freezer jam recipes for slightly larger batches (about 5 cups).

Black or Red Raspberry Freezer Jam

Yields one 16-oz jar

Ingredients

2 cups black or red raspberries
3/4 cup sugar
12 grams (about 3 1/2 teaspoons) Sure-Jell low-or-no-sugar-needed pectin
1/4 cup water

Directions

1. Using the back of a large spoon, mash the berries in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup.

2. Stir together 3/4 cup sugar and 12 grams pectin in a pot (dry). Add 1/4 cup water, then bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

3. Immediately stir the pectin mixture into the berries.

4. Pour into a clean freezing-friendly container (leave a bit of space at the top, because it will expand in the freezer). Let the jam sit at room temperature until it sets, refrigerate for 24 hours, and then freeze. If not frozen, it will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

Black raspberry jam

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I will be brief. This jam is superb. I’ve never made black raspberry jam before, and I’m seriously planning to make it every year from now to ever. It has the dark, slightly wine-y taste of true blackberries without their mustiness; it has the tang and sprightliness of red raspberries too. It is rare and delicious.

It did require picking a lot of wild black raspberries, and I have the thorn scratches to prove it.

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In total, I used 12 cups of berries for the jam: the recipe calls for 6 cups of mashed berries, and I found that I needed 2 cups of fresh berries to get 1 cup of mashed.

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It’s pretty simple jam, just four ingredients: black raspberries, sugar, lemon, and pectin. You could even leave the pectin out and just cook your jam longer, if you don’t mind a less firm set.

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I decided to remove some of the seeds by passing about a third of the jam through a food mill. If I were making this jam just for myself, I probably wouldn’t bother, especially not this year when we’ve gotten a lot of rain so the black raspberries are big and juicy. But I want to give some as presents, and I know not everyone enjoys as many seeds in their jam as I do.

When I was finished I wanted to eat jam off of all the pots and spoons, and I ate buttered toast with black raspberry jam for lunch.

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Jam of the Gods (Black Raspberry Jam)

Slightly adapted from Food in Jars

Yields 5 half-pints and 1 quarter-pint jar

The recipe below has minimal canning instructions. If you’re new to canning, Food in Jars just did a really nice post on the basics. Actually, even if you’re not new to canning, it’s worth a look; I learned quite a bit (like how high to fill your boiling water bath so it doesn’t overflow later).

Ingredients
6 cups mashed black raspberries (12 cups unmashed) (equal to about 4 pints or 3 pounds)
3 cups sugar
Juice and zest of 1 medium lemon (juice = about 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons powdered pectin (I used Sure-Jell low- or no-sugar pectin; 2 Tbs is less than one box)

1. Set out all of your canning equipment. Prepare your jars and start the boiling water bath heating up. Put a small plate or saucer in the freezer (for the wrinkle test–see step 5).

2. Measure 6 cups mashed berries. Combine in pot with sugar and lemon juice and zest. Bring to a boil while stirring. Cook until the mixture is thin and runny and the berries have started to fall apart.

3. Run one-third to one-half of the mixture through a food mill (I did one-third). Recombine with the rest of the jam. (If you don’t mind seediness, you can skip this step.)

4. Continue boiling the jam, stirring constantly, until it starts to thicken a little. Stir in the pectin.

5. Cook for roughly 5-9 minutes (the timing will depend on the width of your pot, among many other things), until the jam passes the wrinkle test when you put a little on the plate in the freezer (see Step 7 of this recipe for the wrinkle test).

6. Remove the jam from heat and ladle into clean jars. Apply lids and bands and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (start your timer when the water reaches a full boil after you’ve added the jars). Remove and let cool.

7. When the jars are completely cool, you can test the seals by removing the bands from the jars and lifting them up an inch just by holding the edges of the lid. If the lid stays on, the seal is good. Sealed jam will keep for at least a year. Keep any unsealed jam in the refrigerator–it will keep for several months.

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