life between the pages

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.”
Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Sunday is a day of rest, goes the old adage, and I do subscribe to it. But today I'm making jam with plums my aunt, uncle, cousin, and I picked last Sunday afternoon from the ancient tree in my yard. I also hung out a load of laundry earlier, a ritual I crave for its simplicity and tactile pleasure.

It isn't work if you love it and it relaxes, reaffirms you. No, I truly believe it's part of the dance of the good life.

Together we picked 25 pounds of fruit last weekend. My aunt usually makes a simple jam based on an old USDA recipe. The wonderful thing about fresh-picked damsons is, in spite of the fact that they are a clingstone fruit, there is usually very little waste. From the entire batch I only found three plums I had to discard due to blemishes or rot. They are sturdy and simple to clean; the stems usually pop right off without tugging.

Here's my recipe for the jam, or rather preserves since I don't grind up all the pulp and fruit skin in a blender and it uses less sugar. I like the texture of the simple combination of fruit in its own rich nectar, and the slow simmering preserves the most flavour:

Damson Plum Preserves

10 lbs fresh plums, washed & picked
3 c water
6 c organic cane sugar

Place plums and water in large dutch oven, cover, and heat slowly at medium temperature, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. When the mixture boils, set timer for 30 minutes. Keep covered and reduce heat to medium-low, stirring occasionally. Stir with wooden spoon and press lightly to encourage splitting of the pulp, which will make the pits easier to remove later. Reduce heat if necessary to keep from boiling over, and continue simmering for an additional 20 minutes.

When the mixture has cooked thoroughly for at least an hour, pulp has absorbed the dark red coloring of the mixture and the liquid has reduced slightly, turn off and set aside half-covered for about an hour until it is cool enough to touch. Stir lightly and pour mixture through a sieve into a large plastic or glass bowl, pressing to get as much pulp as possible to separate from the pits. Stir and return to dutch oven; set mixture aside.

Working over a second clean bowl, carefully remove pits from the remainder of the mixture in the sieve and discard them. When the remainder has been picked clean of pits, return it to the rest of the mixture and combine with sugar. Stir thoroughly.

Place mixture back in heavy saucepan or dutch oven, cover, and heat slowly to boiling a second time. Be careful not to heat too quickly or scorching can occur. Cook carefully over medium- to medium-low temperature until mixture reaches 220 degrees. This may take an hour, more or less. Boil for ten minutes until jell stage is reached. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, checking for thickening.

Pour into hot, clean jars, seal, and process in water bath canner for 10 minutes. Alternately, I am told you can skip the processing if your jars have been boiled and sterilized. A friend does it this way:
... when I do jelly and jam I try to take the jars out of hot water or dishwasher and fill with boiling jam. Then put on lids and invert on counter for five minutes and then turn right side up and wait for ping. I don't use a canner for jelly or jam as the product is hot and sterile, the jar is hot and sterile, and the lids are hot and sterile and they seal nicely. Never lost a jar this way, only in pressure canner.
While the jam is cooling, go check the laundry. Stretch your arms up high. Breathe in the goodness.

Images and content copyright (c) 2015 Susannah Eanes. All rights reserved.

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