Plums are in season in the late summer and early autumn weeks. Right now that is, and I think they are unfairly underrated. This fruit is not getting the recognition it deserves, and that needs to change!
An incredibly nutritional powerhouse, plums are rich in fibers and antioxidants, high in potassium that helps control blood pressure, fortified with vitamins A, B and C, and have a low glycemic index to help control blood sugar.
Brought to Europe by Roman legions from Asia-Minor, this undemanding plant is grown throughout Hungary. And yet, all we seem to be making from it nowadays is szilvapálinka (seel-vah-pal-in-kah, a strong fruit spirit) whereas not so long ago, thousands of cauldrons were bubbling with another traditional plum product this time of the year.
The almost black, very thick plum jam distinct of this region was made with no added sugar on an open fire for 10-20 hours, requiring constant attention and quite the physique to stir. Of course, very few people want to make such labour-intensive things lately, but back in the day especially in poor rural territories you could not possibly let any food go to waste.
The original, hand-made variety is not easy to come by. However if you stumble across it – let it be a farmer’s market or a distant slightly masochist kinswoman – make sure to put your hands on a jar or two! It’s cooked for so long and to such a thick consistency that the jam keeps for years even without high vacuum (used to be stored in clay jugs simply covered with paper).
I am lucky to have folks living in the countryside who provide us with such traditional goodies every now and then, so I get to be the modernist when it comes to preserves. I don’t think it’s cheating to use a slow cooker instead of wood and matches, and I’m not willing to process truckloads of produce either, but rather mix different fruits and play with spices. Although my jam making is still in its infancy, the latest batch I cooked up is something I need to tell you guys about.
Bought really beautiful plums for such a sweet price last week that I decided to try a knockoff version of the spicy plum jam that was given to us by my soon-to-be mother-in-law last year. Although I did not have the recipe, I’d say the concept is heavily borrowed from her (credit where credit is due). And.just.wow.
Everyone knows cinnamon and plums are BFFs, but this jam is in a whole different league. Ginger-effing-bread spice! That’s right. The house smelled like Christmas on an August afternoon while I was making it, hence the adverb festive. My long time fav is Kotányi’s spice mix – good news that they went international so you can probably buy it locally. Or you can always mix your own.
This preserve was ready in a fraction of the time required for the old-fashioned variety (sugar and some natural preservative needs to be added in return). I’d love to tell you an exact time, but it depends… so I just say this: look for the jellying point to determine when your preserves are done.
You can use a food thermometer (105 °C or 220 °F is the number you’re looking for), or do this simple test: if syrup forms two drops that flow together and a sheet hangs off the edge of your spoon, it will set nicely.
I’ll give you the recipe for 1 kg/2.2 lbs fruit (net weight), feel free to multiply.
Festive Plum Preserves
1 kg plums, washed, pitted, halved (or quartered if they are big)
30 dkg sugar
1 tbsp gingerbread spice
1 tbsp citric acid
- Put plums, sugar, citric acid and spice mix in slow cooker, set machine on medium. Fruit will start releasing juices.
- Bring to a boil, reduce to slow setting and simmer, scraping bottom occasionally to avoid sticking.
- When preserves reach jellying point, turn slow cooker off and transfer preserves to jars.
- Clean rims, adjust lids, and process in a water bath for 15 min.
- Let jars cool to room temperature, label and date.
Do you like plums? Is it a common fruit where you’re from? How do you eat them where you live?
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