Up here in Barnet we’re lucky to have access to very decent fresh produce. Whether it’s from the market, gardens or allotments, it seems such a bountiful area. We have several fruit trees in our garden and our neighbours have a magnificent Victoria plum. They were only too pleased for us to keep the 20 odd pounds that fell on our side last summer as it was such a huge crop. You’ve got to deal with plums quickly, so I made a range of preserves and drinks – more recipes will follow.
This recipe comes from one of our favourite hotels, the Diderot in the historic town of Chinon in the Loire Valley. The “jam hotel” as we call in our family, was well known for its fabulous jams. Sadly, after running it for many years, Laurent Dutheil and his sisters Françoise and Martine have retired and the hotel changed hands early in 2015.
This is Laurent’s recipe for a soft-set jam and he likes to macerate the fruit first. (I must add that while I was making it, I posted pictures on Facebook, to which he replied “Parfait”!) It is absolutely delicious. The recipe is taken from his book, L’Armoire à Confitures/Jam in the Cupboard.
1kg plums, stoned
750-800g granulated sugar
juice of 1 lemon
1 vanilla pod
Warm sterilised jars
Wash the fruit, drain and cut into quarters, removing the stones. Put the fruit, sugar, lemon juice into a preserving pan. Slit the vanilla pod, scraping the seeds into the pan with the fruit and slice the pod into four pieces to add to the pan. Stir well. Cover with the lid and leave to macerate for 12 hours (I left it overnight).
The next day, gently bring the mixture to the boil. Cook the jam rapidly, skimming and stirring for about 20 minutes. (Laurent suggests 15 minutes, but his jams are particularly soft-set.) Once it has thickened start checking to see if it has reached setting point either with a sugar thermometer or using the wrinkle test (I tend to do both). It’s better to under cook it, as there is no going back. If necessary, you can always put it back on the heat to thicken it.
Allow to cool slightly then pot the jam, making sure the vanilla is evenly distributed. While still hot, turn the jars upside down to create a vacuum. Label, store away and enjoy.