My choice today is a) make jam or b) write blog post. Although I gaze across the counter at an enormous pot of thawing plums, a couple of boxes of Certo and a sink full of dusty canning jars, I choose b).
It has been awhile since I assembled all the necessary components of a successful canning session and this time, the challenge is on as most of my stuff is in a storage locker. But I am determined to make this work; my homesteading ancestors made this work. I refuse to move a freezer full of plums to one more residence – ours has been moved three times this past year and my boys are giving me increasing dirty looks every time I suggest they help out “with a few things.” So, my husband has been sent to pick up a ladle from a thrift store because I refuse to buy a new one knowing that there are at least four in the packed boxes. I will manage somehow without a colander when it comes to pit removal (currently working on a plan).
But the plums! Ooh la la! They are a deliciously sweet and sour, rosy-golden variety I have yet to identify. They are from the bumper crop our tree produced last year – the last year on the property where we had lived for almost 23 years. My Dad chose the tree when we first moved there, he being the real gardener, wanted to set up a few fruit trees for me right away. Over the years, the other members of the orchard were attacked by disease, deer and bear or never really produced. This lovely bearer of clouds of plum blossom in the spring outdid herself by the end of many summers with branches that creaked with the weight of plump fruit.
Back in the days of running a busy home full of kids and pets, an acreage with fowl and small livestock and flower and vegetable gardens (yes Dad, I did have a big garden one year) I found time to do pantry loads of preserving: peaches, pears and plums, salsa, pickles, jams, chutney, vinegars and tuna (once!). And then there were the veggie freezer packs and the chickens, turkeys, rabbits and sheep to process and freeze – not that I did it all myself. There was nothing like the smug feeling as autumn blew in that I was ready for any breakdown in the world order whether by war, martians, zombies, an arctic winter or financial ruin, that no matter what, I would be able to produce a five course meal and snacks!
Although I’ve made plum cakes, sauce and sorbet, the jam is just so good that the investment in time, burned fingers and kitchen mess is worth it. Hell yes, I’m jammin’!
Update: decided to go big and quadruple the recipe in the big canner. Immediately, I accidentally flipped a drift off the tip of the sugar mountain with my wooden spoon, scattering the white poison over my counter and into the toaster. (Now toast smells like a sugar plantation.) Then, a bit of sizzling and cracking on the element suggested that there was a small leak in the tiny chip on the bottom of the pot. In the old days, I would have ploughed ahead figuring that a 50/50 chance of the product working out was good enough for me. But not now. I have matured. I have learned from disasters of the past. (Jerry enjoys reminding me of my sloppy liver muffins – a failed attempt at fancy French mini pates.)
Dutifully, I divided the batch into four manageable portions that fit into the heavy bottomed pot that was available. I cooked, I sterilized, I sealed (4 times) and to my great joy, I wound up with 18 pints of beautiful, golden jam cooling on my counter.
Today, I’ve just made dilled beans. I’ve added an inspirational sprinkle of red pepper flakes to each jar. Tomorrow, I’m making dill pickles – 1 quart thanks to a cucumber donation from a friend’s garden. In the pickling heyday, I wouldn’t have considered making less than 24 quarts in a session. Now, small is beautiful.
p.s. Jerry forgot the ladle so I used a measuring cup for pouring and just dove in with both hands for plum pit removal – a tactile experience I recommend.