Friday, September 26, 2008
It's so easy to wax poetic about the autumn season: the colors of the leaves, the cool mornings, the appearance of handknit woolies for the little ones, and the abundance of stunning produce at the open air markets. It's a gorgeous season to revel in and every time it rolls around I am happy to be in Quebec.
My early childhood years were spent in the Yukon where fall was nonexistent. One day it would be summer, with green hills and bright yellow zucchini flowers blooming in the kitchen garden, and the next day I would wake up to frosted window panes. If I scratched a peek hole with my fingernail, I would see a motionless Lake Laberge, completely iced over, a brown frost-killed garden and the breath from the goats hanging in the cold air as they chewed their cud.
Winter. It always struck without warning and when it arrived, it stayed for almost nine months. Fortunately, as an energetic nature-loving little girl, I embraced winter for all that it offered: sledding parties with hot cocoa on the wood stove, ice skating for miles and miles, snow ice cream, igloos and cross-country skiing.
But why am I talking about winter? I'm shivering just thinking about it! Where was I? Oh yes, Autumn in Quebec.
This time of the year always makes me want to hole up in the kitchen for days on end with the finest ingredients of the season and create copious amounts of food. Pies stuffed full of apples, velvety squash soups, slowly braised meats with herbs, beans baked in apple cider, and the list goes on.
If I have my way, October is going to be a very busy month Under the High Chair.
For now, though, I am working on preserving some of summer's last produce before moving on to the fall goods. This spiced yellow plum jam turned out so well, it left me asking myself why on earth I had never made plum jam before?!
It's tart taste and gorgeous sunny color is a joy to wake up to in the morning. The spices add a subtle complexity that you might not catch until after your first cup of coffee.
Best enjoyed on fresh scones.
OK, so this is the "Aimee's Speedy, Somewhat Controversial, But Tried and True Version" of the jam. For the original, no shortcuts version, go here. You may be surprised to know that most people I talk to sterilize their jars in their dishwasher and find that as long as you are ladling HOT fruit into HOT jars and topping with a HOT lid (and never touch the inside of the jar) the jams seal themselves and there is no need to process in hot water afterward. This is now my method for jam and I haven't had any problems. Of course with the amount of sugar in the jam and the speed at which they get consumed around here, there's no chance of them ever going bad!
What's your canning method? Any thoughts?
Spiced Golden Plum Jam
3 1/2 lbs golden plums, washed
1/2 cup apple juice
4 inch cinnamon stick
6 green cardamom pods, bruised
4 whole cloves
6 2/3 cups sugar
1 pouch liquid pectin
Prepare your canning station by collecting all your tools: a pair of tongs, a 1-cup glass measuring cup, a wide-mouth jar funnel, a spatula and a few clean dish towels, one of those awesome wands with a magnet on the end for lifting the lids out of the hot water.
Place 8-250 ml in an empty dishwasher (this is not the time to clean breakfast dishes as well)and run a cycle. When jars are on the dry cycle, start your jam.
Place your sealing discs ( the lids) in a small pot and cover with hot water. Keep very hot, but do not boil. Place jar rings within easy reach.
Half, pit and roughly chop plums. Tie spices together in a square of cheesecloth for a spice bag.
In a large, deep stainless steel saucepan, combine prepared plums, apple juice and spice bag. Over medium heat, bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Partially cover, reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set spice bag aside to be added in later.
In a clean stainless steel saucepan, combine 4-1/2 cups (1.125 L) of the cooked mixture, spice bag, 1/2 tsp (2 ml) butter or margarine (to reduce foaming) and all of the sugar. Over high heat, stirring constantly, bring to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Stir in the liquid pectin. Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from heat, skim off foam and discard spice bag.
Using a tea towel to protect your fingers from the heat, take a hot jar from the dishwasher and place on your counter.
Ladle hot jam into a hot jar to within 1/4 inch of top of jar (head space). Using nonmetallic utensil, remove air bubbles and adjust head space, if required, by adding more jam. Wipe jar rim removing any food residue. Center hot sealing disc on clean jar rim. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight.
Spread out a tea towel on your counter and place the jar of jam on it. Repeat canning process with remaining seven jars.
Leave jars to cool 24 hours with out touching them. After 24 hours is up, check that all jars have sealed. If any have not, store them in the fridge and use first. Store the rest in a cool, dark place.
For more Jam & Jelly recipes visit these posts:
Maple Apple Butter