Plum and Ginger Jam Recipe

We took a day off flower farming on Saturday, and spent a very happy day making plum and ginger jam.  Because jamming is good for the soul, and leaving that many plums on the tree for the wasps to eat is too generous to the wasps, and not kind to my half empty store cupboard (I failed to make marmalade this year!)

So I invited my lovely friend, neighbour, and consumate cook, Silvana de Soissons over for a day's traditional chat and jamming, filled two large baskets with not quite ripe (because I like a tart jam,) plums, and we made thirty five pounds of plum and ginger jam.

To make a change from all our beautiful British flowers I thought you might like our jam recipe.  Of course, since we're flower farmers I went to the patron saint of florists for my inspiration recipe, so out came my Grandmother's copy of Constance Spry's classic cook book.

When I say 'inspiration,' of course I'm terrible at doing exactly what a recipe tells me, but it's good to start somewhere.  So this is what we did...

To make four pounds of jam you will need:

  • Four clean jars and lids - we boil these for a minute or two, then put them open side down in an oven heated to 100 degrees for another couple of minutes.  Then you can take them out of the oven and leave them, open side down, until you need them.  Of course, leaving them open side down means you're preventing any nasty pathogens or spores lurking in the air from entering your jars and threatening your lovely jam stock with mould.
  • You'll also need a handkerchief sized square of jamming muslin, or, if your kitchen fails to provide you with such a thing, a clean pocket handkerchief will do.
  • And a length of cotton string.
  • Three small plates or saucers should be put in the freezer - I'll tell you why later.

Ingredients

  • Four pounds of pitted plums (put the stones from the plums in a clean tea towel parcel and HAMMER them with a rolling pin so that they split, and put them to one side.)
  • Four pounds of sugar
  • The pips and jiuce of one lemon
  • A pint of water
  • A good handful of peeled and roughly chopped fresh ginger - obviously this is to taste so a little if you don't like too much heat, and if you're like me then a handful big enough that you need two hands to carry it.
  • A big knob of butter

How to make the jam

  • Put the pitted plums, the lemon juice and the chopped fresh ginger into a heavy bottomed pan.
  • Tie the bashed plum stones and lemon pips into your square of muslin (or cotton handkerchief, if you're me,) and put this parcel in with the pitted plums etc.  You smash the plum stones so that they can release pectin into the jam to help it set.  Lemon jiuce and pips help too.  
  • Add your pint of water to the pan, and put the pan on a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture bubbles gently and the flesh of the fruit softens (this takes about fifteen minutes.)
  • While the fruit is softening, put the sugar in another heavy-bottomed pan and put it in a warm oven (100 degrees will do,) to warm.  
  • When the fruit is softened, add the warm sugar, and stir gently until the sugar is all disolved.  Use a metal spoon to stir so that you can see whether all the sugar crystals have been disolved.
  • Once the sugar is all disolved, turn the heat under the pan right up.  You'll need to stay nearby to make sure the mix doesn't boil over the side of the pan, but also to stir occasionally so that the mix doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.
  • After about twenty minutes of a rollling boil, take one of your little plates out of the freezer and spoon a small amount of your jam mix onto the plate.  After a minute or two push at this mix with your finger... if the mix creases (and when it does crease after it hasn't you'll understand what I mean,) then your jam will set in the jar.  If it doesn't then keep the rolling boil going for another ten minutes and test with the next plate.  With us it takes about thirty five minutes to get a set, but you may find you have more pectin in your plums and so you get a set earlier, or less, and it takes longer.  This is why you test once, twice, or sometimes thrice, before you get a set.
  • Once you have your creasing jam on your little plate, take the jam off the heat and add your big knob of butter which will disperse any scum on the surface of the jam. 

Then you can fill your jam jars, put the lids on very tightly, and put them to one side to cool.  Don't add labels until the jars are completely cool because hot jars make jam labels peeel off.

If you're planning to enter a jar into your local produce show, you'll need a small circle of waxed paper to pop on the top of the surface of the jam before adding the lid.  You risk disqualification if there isn't a circle of waxed paper on the jam you enter into the competition, no matter how incredible the jam.

Later on in our jamming session we ran out of lemons and lemon pips and so I mashed up three sour apples per batch of jam because apples are full of pectin.  I put the mashed apples and added a little water to make my pint of water.  This was very successful for making a set.  With my final batch I had inadvertently thrown away the plum stones from my prepared split plums, so I just added the cores of three apples to my, by now almost worn out, handkerchief parcel, and still got a good set.  

So happy jamming all!  I loved taking a day off flower farming, and the cut flower patch could easily look after itself for a day while we jammed, and Silvana and I put the world completely to rights and made thirty five pounds of jam with about two thirds of the fruit off one tree.  I feel much better about the fact that I never got round to making marmalade this year because my larder cupboard is bulging with jam now... and if there is trouble ahead, at least we'll be all right for jam.  And we've spent all day today strategising about how we're going to take our business forward... I'm thinking a small demo kitchen in the flower studio and then we could do lots of fun jam making days for everyone to come to.  After all, Common Farm Flowers is about more than just British flowers, it's about the whole living the dream thing... What do you think?