Twentyfirst century problems

Living in the 21st century is pretty convenient, because you can do things like send emails, heat your house without lighting a fire, and watch cats even if you don’t own a cat. Sometimes, however, living in the 21st century can be a load of baws, for instance when you accidentally click a link in a fraudulent email, or when you can’t sleep because your neighbour has an amazing new sound system, or you can’t get a job because the economy is balls. I think I speak for many people when I say that on those days, it’s really not all that great to be living in the 21st century, and it can be relieving to pretend that we don’t live in the 21st century.

For a large chronological distance from our day and age, you can hand-sew yourself a wee viking suit and sit around a campfire at night, armed with a battle axe to ward off the wolves. For a slightly smaller distance (which I usually feel suffices) you can send hand-written letters, crochet a little coaster, or buy fresh fruit from a ramshackle fruitstand on the side of the road. The region I’m currently staying in is quite full of those. Last month they sold cherries, right now we’re in the middle of plum season. Oh jolly, a kilo of Opal for just a euro? Let’s buy 5! So authentic, so old-fashioned.

If you’re still feeling too 21st centuryish after this side-of-the-road fruit spree, make plum jam. I did, after my mum showed me how to, and it worked fairly well for me. I truly felt a lot better afterwards. If you’re anything like me, and you don’t like sweets all that much, you’ll want to use a 2:1 or a 3:1 gelling sugar. I’m not sure which types are available in which countries, but ours was a pectin sugar, which means it’s vegetarian – some varieties of gelling sugar might have gelatine in them which is an animal product. See for yourself which you prefer. As for the quantities, mine said to use 500gr of sugar to 1250gr of fruit, or a sugar-fruit ratio of 2:5. Makes for very fruity, less sugary jam, which I prefer. More importantly, instead of just using fruit and sugar, we used some super exciting extra ingredients: one batch with ginger, one with mixed spice (or pudding spice) and port.

plum jam

…and add some super tacky toppers to make it look even more 1950s.

For about 6 jars of jam, you will need:

  • 2kg of ripe plums
  • 800gr of pectin sugar, or however much the bag tells you to use
  • 20gr of fresh ginger OR 3 tsp mixed spice and 2-3 shot glasses of port

If you’re puzzled as to what mixed spice is, or you don’t have any but you do have plenty of spices, use cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and add a little cardamom. just because you’re adventurous.

You will also need a bunch of sterilized glass jars, check out last week’s recipe if you want to know how to do this. My mum reproached me for boiling the jars for half an hour, which she said was way longer than necessary. I guess it probably is.

So, cut your plums in half, squeeze out the stones and chuck those out. Put your plums in a big pot, add the sugar. Chop up your ginger, if that’s what you’re using, and add it to the pot – otherwise add the spice and the port at this stage. Now you want to bring it to a soft boil, stir it properly and make sure all the sugar dissolves. When it’s boiling, stir for about 4 minutes, then take it off the heat.

IMG_0620 plum jam

Now use a ladle or something to pour the jam into the jars. Fill them up as close to the brim as possible (but make sure it doesn’t overflow). Now put on the lid, then turn the jar upside down and leave it to stand for at least 5 minutes. This will hopefully cause the jar to vacuum so you can keep it out of the fridge until you open it.

Turn the jars over again, wipe them down if necessary (mine ended up covered in jam), leave them to cool, add hideous toppers and label them. Keep them in the fridge after you open them. Enjoy your super tasty, old-fashioned, 20th century plum jam.

IMG_0630 IMG_0633 plum jam

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