On Saturday, Daniel and I walked through the farmer's market in Larkspur and I noticed a basket of small yellow fruit tucked in between the purple plums and rosy apricots. I didn't stop to look closer- we weren't doing any shopping since we were on our way up to Napa- but I did notice them. When we arrived in Napa, I saw that Daniels' mother had a bowl of this same fruit sitting in the kitchen. I asked her what they were and she told me: plums.
It turns out that they have a plum tree in their back yard, though they'd never noticed it before- it hadn't produced fruit in years past. But this year it was bursting with little yellow orbs the size of cherries that, as Google informed me, are commonly referred to as Mirabelle plums.
A few months back, I took a class on canning and preserving at the Institute of Urban Homesteading in Oakland. It wasn't that I saw myself preparing to go on any sort of canning spree (I live in an apartment with no yard and hence no fruit trees/bushes/etc.) but I liked the idea of learning the basic skill so that if I were ever presented with a large enough quantity of fruit, I could spring into action.
Here was my opportunity.
Daniel and I picked several pounds of plums. There's something addictive about picking fruit- you always want to keep going, to pluck the last few ripe specimens from the heavily laden branches. Once we had enough, we packed them up and I started thinking about the best way to convert our haul into jam.
I ended it keeping it simple: just plums, sugar and a bit of lemon juice. It took seemingly forever to pit four pounds of Mirabelle plums and it stained my hands an odd spray-tan orange but it was all worth it when I got to watch the fruit turn to syrup in my Dutch oven, burbling away and smelling absolutely heavenly.
I poured the jam into sterilized mason jars and boiled them for the required 10 minutes. Hearing the lids pop as the jars sealed was immensely satisfying. Now I think it's time to make some bread so I can try some of this stuff out.
4 lbs pitted mirabelle plums
2 cups granulated sugar
3 tbs lemon juice
Boil plums and sugar over medium high heat at a low boil for 5 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer, pressing down on the fruit to extract the juice. Set the fruit pulp aside for later use and return the sieved juices to the stove. Boil, stirring infrequently, until a candy thermometer registers 220F and the juice is syrupy. Return the fruit pulp to the juices and add the lemon juice. Boil on medium high, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes. Pour the mixture into sterilized jam jars and follow instructions for canning.