It was that time of year again. Well that time of "two years" actually.
We have two plum trees, and every two years they produce prolific amounts of fruit. In years gone by I have eagerly helped to pick and de-stone said plums and then make huge quantities of "Sally Jam", only to give most of it away and be left with maybe a jar for us. The "children" complain bitterly. "Don't give it away Mum. You're too generous with it. You even give it to people we barely know... Grumble grumble grumble..."
But every "other" year it is the same. The joy is in the making and the knowledge that you can, even just for a week every two years be an Earth Mother type and create your own little cottage industry in your kitchen... Or something like that I think, as I run round the kitchen finding old jars, empty them hastily, get as much of the labels off as possible and stuff them into the dishwasher. Not quite Nigella I guess.
This year though it was different. "We must get the plums" said Hubby. "Make the jam." "Yes"
I kept saying. "Soon."
He clearly wasn't convinced by my eager responses. Perhaps he thought that the mere triviality of having five "lively"* foster children aged eight and under, two of my own aged thirteen and eleven, my two big teenagers and twenty one year old and mad collie dog, all living at home, might put me off my stride. As if?
So then he picked two bowlfuls and plonked them on the kitchen table. And, thinking that we didn't have enough, Gymnast, Tinkerbell Mushroom and one of the younger ones went out and picked some more.
"Shall I de-stone them tonight." Said Hubby.
I looked wearily on. "I was thinking of freezing them. I can make jam when everyone has gone back to school." "I'm not sure the fruit would be as nice." Said Hubby. He can drive a hard bargain at times.
So that was how, with two of the youngest at nursery this morning and another at a holiday summer school and the baby in bed having a morning nap and my lovely "Help sent directly from Heaven" cleaning the house, that TM, Gymnast, one of the younger ones and I, sat down to de-stone the plums. That was after of course a mad panic on my part because I had lost the recipe that I always use. Hasty look in all the cookery books for slip of paper that recipe is printed on. No recipe. Quick look on Google to "re-find" it. No recipe. In the end I found a new recipe and adapted it to make it more like my original one.
Then of course the doorbell rang and it was Tesco with an obscenely large amount of food. We do eat it of course. There is very little waste. And there are a great deal of people to feed in our house, so we need it.
But I have to put it away in the cupboards...
And so it was that by the time that I had done that, the plums had been nearly de-stoned. They left a few of the trickier ones for me to do, which I think is probably fair enough really. I had just enough time to throw sugar on them before the afternoon "pick ups" began.
ESOS walked in. "Plum jam?" He said, looking on eagerly. "Don't give it all away this time mum." His two houseguests looked a little disappointed. Sensible, who was busy planning a results party two nights before the results come out (Sensible is awaiting AS level results and ESOS is awaiting A level results) asked me to go to the local supermarket to buy something for the party. (Tescos hadn't delivered enough.) "Why isn't the party on Thursday" I asked. "Because it might be too depressing" said ESOS. "We'll have a pre results party."
Whilst I was at the supermarket Sensible made the kitchen look as sparkling "as you can get for old house in need of renovation, especially of the kitchen with broken drawers and broken other stuff..." And someone helpfully threw away the plum stones which could or could not have formed some of the recipe, but they did very much look like rubbish and I really should know by now how to give clear specific instructions.
One of the children asked when we were going to make it into "actual" jam. Thinking that Social services wouldn't be best pleased if enthusiastic foster child got scalded by being part of some jam manufacture I hastily replied that I would make it when all others were in bed. "But that's not fair" said the little one. "We've done all the work. We should be able to make it." But, as the lion says, "sometimes..."
I finally got it boiling. Once all the younger children were in bed. Once Sensible had had a driving lesson, and once the kitchen was vaguely clear again, following its nightly ordeal of using some of huge amount of food from fridge in the "cooked" version. The concoction needed a while... and some lemons too... which I hadn't bought from Tesco. So Hubby bought some lemons from our local late supermarket and kindly zested them for me and then, with jam boiling merrily, we sat down to watch an episode of "House" on my laptop, in the kitchen, while the jam was cooking. "House" is the de-stresser of the universe. Hugh Laurie, medical drama and pithy wit. What better combination could there be? ESOS got me into it and I'm hooked.
It was a good episode which meant that the jam had even longer to boil, which it appears is the answer to success.
And this time am going to put my new recipe on my blog, lest in future years I yet again forget its whereabouts, and especially as this recipe is really a "Sally's own", it having been adapted and combined with a few.
"Sally Originals" Plum Jam
What's in it:
8 lb/3.5 kg Plums
6 1/2 lb/ 3kg Sugar
How to make it:
Split the plums and de-stone them
Place sugar on the top and mix in carefully
Leave for at least ten hours (This allows the fruit to ferment a little and really makes a difference to the taste of the jam).
Put the fruit and sugar in a supersized saucepan, add the juice and zest from the lemons and boil. Keep stirring.
(Optional) Place stones in a muslin bag and boil with the jam. And/or break some of the stones and add the kernel into the mixture.
After fifteen minutes, lower the heat to medium hot and keep stirring from time to time. (It can cook at a relatively high temperature without catching as long as you have a big enough pot to ensure that it doesn't boil over.)
Cook for an hour and a half to two hours. The longer cooking time will allow the jam to develop a lovely mature flavour.
Grab newly sterilised jars from dishwasher.
Put jam into jars being careful not to splash any on the hand. If this does happen grab a leaf of handy Aloe Vera plant to cure burn. (As I did.)
And there it is. "Sally Originals" Plum Jam...
*polite speak for "challenging in the extreme"...