Growing up we had two trees at the bottom of our garden: an apple tree that brought us small, bitter fruit and a plum tree that delivered nothing short of a tonne of plums every single year. Each year my mum would take the plums, stew them and turn them into a simple crumble. There was a lot of fruit and not so much crumble, not the kind of ratio I enjoy. Stewed fruit isn’t for me at the best of times, let alone when it’s the only desert available for the foreseeable future. Our freezer would be piled high every September. Up until last month I hadn’t touched a plum since, now there’s jars and jars of plum jam stacked on my shelves.
Whilst reading the Observer Food Monthly I came across a recipe for a plum and star anise frangipani from Gill Meller’s latest book. It seemed like the perfect thing to use up the plums that arrived with my latest Abel & Cole box; an originally unwelcome result of having not selected plums on my ‘never send’ list. It changed my opinion on the plums, so props to Gill. The combination of the plums with the aniseed-like flavour of the star anise (again not a flavour I would have enjoyed previously) works so well. You can find the recipe for the tart here.
Warm and comforting, the deep purple plums are completely brought alive by the Star Anise.. I decided to combine both flavours into a plum jam, spiking it with a hint of ginger along the way to really deliver the most comforting of winter jams. Spread liberally on crumpets or freshly toasted sourdough, or better yet, swirl through a cosy bowl of porridge on a lazy winter morning.
I’ve made this plum jam twice now and both times it yielded four large jars. I always like to ensure I’ve got six sterilised and ready to go however. You never know. The hexagonal jars used here are from Wilko and are always my jam jar of choice!
A note on sterilising jars.
Nigella says she considered jars fresh from the dishwasher as sterilised and ready to use, so I’m inclined to agree. She knows her stuff. If you don’t have a dishwasher however, wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water and leave to dry fully. Pop your oven on to a medium heat (150 C or so) and place the dried jars onto a baking tray and pop in the oven for ten minutes or so. For the final few minutes add in a second baking tray with the lids spread out on also. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly. This will keep the jars warm until you’re ready to fill them with your jam.
1kg of de-stoned and quartered firm plums
850g caster sugar
3 star anise
1sp ground ginger
120ml fresh lemon juice (around 3 medium lemons)
Pop a side plate into the fridge to chill.
To a large heavy bottomed pan add the plums, sugar, ground ginger, lemon juice and 100ml of water.
Place the star anise (use just 2 if you’d like the flavour to be a little more subtle) into a pestle and motor and grind to a powder. You can also pop them into a sandwich bag and thoroughly bash with a rolling pin.
Before adding the ground star anise to the pan with the other ingredients tip them into a sieve to remove any of the larger chunks. You can grind these down again and repeat.
Bring everything to a boil before turning the heat down to maintain a slow simmer. Stir regularly until the sugar is fully dissolved and then intermittently for 40-50 minutes to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of your pan. The fruit should break down but not become entirely liquid, as well reducing quite significantly in volume to be thick and treacle-like.
At the 40 minute mark take your plate from the fridge and grab a teaspoon of the jam and pour the plum jam onto the plate. Leave to set for a minute or so. Push your finger through the jam, if it wrinkles and moves away from your finger, it’s ready. If sliding your finger through the jam doesn’t meet any resistance and it remains still very much a liquid, keep it on the heat for a little while longer, clean the plate and return to the fridge, trying the process again in a few minutes.
When you’re happy tip the jam into a jug, remove the jars from the oven and distribute the mixture evenly between the jars, filling them up to just below the neck. Don’t fill them right up the top, there needs to be a gap. Pop the lids on immediately and tightly close.
The jam should keep for quite some time, so if you’re making it now, feel free to stash it away for impromptu Christmas gifts!