I’ve been AWOL, I know. I’m totally sorry. Life is strange and wonderful, and sometimes it’s a calm sea and I’m sailing in an open boat and the breeze is blowing lightly through my hair and I can see the shore, and sometimes I’m upside down at the bottom of the ocean wondering if that seahorse can administer CPR. That’s the best explanation I can give to you at the moment. I’m going to try to not let another week go by, but this coming week promises to be a doozy. Plus, Harry Potter comes out on Wednesday. HP! The penultimate! I mean, no nerd I know is not excited by that. And as far as nerds go…well, sometimes I feel like I put Liz Lemon to shame.
Today my sister’s friend Hannah came by to help us preserve the 850 million plums growing on the trees in the backyard. Hannah grew up on a ranch in eastern Oregon, and she makes her own yogurt and granola and she brought with her a fig and mascarpone tart, so she is obviously a woman after my own heart. After a trip to IKEA and Sur la Table, during which we had to keep ourselves from buying many assorted kitchen supplies (for real dudes, they had a miniature horse cake tin at IKEA!), we procured some canning supplies and set to work pitting each of the 850 million plums my sister and her boyfriend had picked.
I’m not going to lie, I did minimal work on this project, pitching in only to pit some plums and wipe the jars after Hannah ladled in the preserves. However, I was there to document the entire process, which lasted several hours, interrupted only by burritos outside in the cool Oakland summer air.
So, this plum jam is IN. TENSE. One might say it’s jam-packed with flavor, if one were inclined to make really insipid jokes all the damn time. It’s the kind of thing you smell and your jaw immediately starts tensing up, anticipating the tartness. Hooo boy is this stuff strong. But dag, is it ever good.
After you taste it you start dreaming of all the ways you’re going to use it: on english muffins with cream cheese, generously scooped on top of vanilla bean ice cream, swirled into yogurt, sandwiched between a cakey bottom and a crumbly top in a jam bar. The possibilities, although not endless, are endlessly mouth-watering. Or jaw tensing as it were.
The other thing about this jam is that it is one of the prettiest colors I’ve ever seen. Such a deep and satisfying purple, glowing from within sparkling glass and gleaming metal lids. It’s really a sight to behold. It’s the kind of thing that inexplicably makes you feel good. It’s beautiful. It’s jam and it’s beautiful and life is good.
Wild Plum Jam
adapted loosely from Chez Panisse Fruit
2 1/2 pounds plums (about 5 cups diced) [we probably tripled this recipe]
3 cups sugar
Wash and pit the plums. Cut them into 1/2-inch pieces. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, stir the fruit and sugar together and let stand for 15 minutes. Put a small plate in the freezer to use later to test the consistency of the jam.
Prepare 4 8-oz canning jars and lids in boiling water, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Bring the pot of fruit to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally to make sure it isn’t sticking to the bottom. As the mixture comes to a boil, it will rise up in the pot with big bubbles. During the first 5 minutes, skim off the foam that rises to the top. When the jam subsides but is still bubbling thickly, start to monitor is closely, testing frequently by putting small spoonfuls of jam on the cold plate. When it has cooked to the consistency you like, remove from the heat and carefully ladle the jam into the prepared jars, allowing at least 1/4 inch of headroom, and seal with the lids, following the manufacturer’s instructions. The jam will keep for about a year. Makes 4 cups.