Prunus Plum Jam

If you live in Australia and have access to a prunus tree, now is the time to make jam. In Canberra you find them in many public areas. The fruit which is not eaten by the birds just falls to the ground and rots. I have a friend whose dog thinks they’re delicious and eats any she can find at the park where we meet with our four legged friends. Her owner has to stop her so she doesn’t get an upset tummy. While the plums are too acid to appeal to most people uncooked, they make a delicious, tangy jam with a lovely bright red colour.

Prunus plums seem to ripen at different times on different trees, so you need to keep an eye on your target and pick them before it’s too late. As soon as the birds start to take an interest you need to be quick! One week they’re ready, the next they’re all gone.

The plums are quite small so removing the stones by hand after the fruit is cooked is the easiest way to do it, but it does involve getting your hands into the pot! If you miss some it only gives authenticity to the finished product. Well that’s what Matthew who was doing the de-stoning said.

The more pectin fruit has, the more acid it tastes and the more quickly it will set. Some jams, such as strawberry and apricot, can take forever to reach setting point, which is why recipes often suggest adding some lemon juice. One way to check if the jam has reached setting point is to put a small plate in the freezer and let it get very cold, then put a teaspoon of jam on the plate (taking the jam off the heat while you do it) to see if it sets. With experience you can tell just by looking. With Prunus Plum Jam it’s not really necessary to test because the fruit has lots of pectin and the jam sets very quickly. Many jam recipes call for the same weight of sugar as fruit, but we prefer ours to be more tangy so I always cut down. This jam is delicious on toast, with scones or swirled through thick Greek yoghurt as a dessert.

Prunus Plum Jam

2 kg ripe prunus plums
500 ml water
1 kg sugar
1 knob of butter about the size of a walnut

Wash plums and place in a large heavy-based saucepan or preserving pan. Add water, bring to the boil and simmer, stirring often, until fruit is soft. Cool then remove as many stones as possible, by squeezing the fruit by hand. Add sugar and bring slowly to the boil, stirring. When sugar has dissolved boil steadily, stirring often, for 3-5 minutes until setting point has reached, then add the butter. Meanwhile heat 6-8 clean jam jars in the microwave on high for 2 minutes (without their lids). Pour hot jam into jars and seal immediately. Keeps for up to a year in a dark cupboard. Refrigerate after opening.

Makes 6-8 jars depending on size

Kumquats preserved in Salt

With all the rain we’ve had lately, we have a bumper crop of kumquats.  I usually make kumquat marmalade, sometimes with the addition of fresh ginger.  Last year I also made a compote which was delicious served at room temperature with labneh.  Cut them up, skin and all, removing as many seeds as possible and place in a saucepan.  Add a little water and sugar to taste – as if you were stewing apples or rhubarb. Then simmer gently until tender.  I also made some preserved/candied kumquats rolled in sugar. Delicious but a lot of work.
This year I thought I would have a go at preserving some in salt, to use the way you use preserved lemons – in couscous, tajines, rice salads and so on.  I did some research on Google, found a large jar and here is the result.   In the photo you can also see two jars of lemon quarters which were preserved with salt in the same way about two months ago. Adding a little sugar is an optional extra I found in some recipes for preserved kumquats online.  I have never used any sugar when preserving lemons, but thought I would give it a try.

Kumquats preserved in Salt

Enough kumquats to fill a large jar
salt
sugar (optional)
lime or lemon juice

Wash and dry the fruit, then cut them in half.  No need to remove the seeds.  Pack fruit into a large jar with a tightly fitting lid, sprinkling each layer generously with salt and, if liked, a little sugar.  As a rough guide I used about a tablespoon of salt and a teaspoon of sugar for every 8-12 kumquats.  Fruit varies in size – ours are huge this year.  Press down on the kumquat halves, so you can squeeze in as many as possible.  Add enough lime or lemon juice to come about a third of the way up the jar, then seal with the lid.  If you have a metal lid it’s best to put a piece of baking paper over the top of the jar before the lid.  This will stop it from being corroded by the salt.  Keep the jar in a sunny kitchen window for about two months, or until the fruit is soft and “preserved”.    Every day turn the jar upside down to distribute the juice and salt evenly.  If the jar doesn’t leak you can stand it upside down every other day.  When ready the fruit will have softened and be less bright in colour – check on progress by removing the lid and having a look.  Store the preserved kumquats in a dark pantry or cupboard where they will keep for at least a year

Uses for preserved lemons and kumquats: Most recipes say to throw the flesh away and just use the diced skin, but you can use the flesh if you like to add a nice citrus flavour to curries and casseroles.  In Vietnam kumquats preserved in this way are used to get rid of a sore throat or cough.  Just eat the whole thing!

Rachel’s Lime Marmalade

The Kangaroo Valley is a little oasis in New South Wales, a couple of hours drive from where we live in Canberra.  Very picturesque, it has a micro-climate which favours all kinds of produce.  A friend has a house there and every year at about this time she takes orders for some fabulous organic limes grown by a friend of hers.

As he eats most of the marmalade in our house (I’m a confirmed muesli muncher) my husband Matthew always volunteers to do the cutting up, which is rather a tedious job, especially cutting the peel into thin shred.  And to be honest I don’t have a good track record when it comes to fingers and very sharp knives.  Using a food processor to speed things up just doesn’t work with this recipe – believe me, I’ve tried!

This recipe came from my sister in law Rachel and it’s fabulous.  I use only two thirds of the sugar because we like our lime marmalade to be very tangy.  I can’t tell you exactly how much the recipe makes, but it’s a lot.  I filled 12 jars of varying sizes, as you can see from the photo.  It will keep in a cupboard for at least a year.  In fact we have just one jar left from the batch I made a year ago.

Rachel’s Lime Marmalade

1.5kg limes
2-3kg sugar*
3.6 litres water

Choose very ripe limes which are just starting to turn yellow as they have more juice.

Wash fruit, remove peel with a vegetable peeler and cut into fine strips. Remove pith from the fruit using a small serrated knife and place in a large saucepan with the pips (if there are any) and about half the water. Chop up the fruit and place in another large pan with the peel and the rest of the water. Simmer both pans gently for an hour or until the peel and pith have softened. Strain the pith and pips. Keep the liquid and throw the pith and pips away.

Place clean jam jars without their lids in the oven and turn to 100°C. In a large wide topped saucepan or a preserving pan place the liquid from the pith, the sugar and fruit. Heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, boil for 2 minutes then pour into the hot jars using a small jug and seal with the lids while hot. As limes contain so much pectin the marmalade starts to gel even before it comes to a boil, so there’s none of that boiling and testing you have to do with other jams, to see if setting point has been reached.

Makes 10-12 jars depending on size.

* Adjust sugar according to your taste.The original recipe uses 3kg of sugar.  The first time I made it I used 2.5kg and it worked perfectly. I now make it with only 2kg of sugar and that’s how we like it.