Friday, September 13, 2013

Spicy Italian Plum Jam

E-Z recipe with no peeling, no pectin

Spicy Italian could refer to some people I know, but hey!, I'm thinking jam here. It began with Monday's unplanned purchase of a box of nearly ripe Italian Prune Plums. This stone fruit is a handy snack all by itself, and it is a good addition to a breakfast smoothie, but a whole box?! What was I thinking? Hot weather and a warm kitchen brought every one of these treasures to ripe, ready-to-eat status by Tuesday. Now what?  Freeze them? maybe. Make coffee cake or bake in a crust for dessert? Nope, too hot to turn on the oven. Quick chutney or jam? Oh, yes please.

A gazillion versions of Plum Jam appeared all over the blogosphere this month, many with similar techniques and only slight variations in flavor. Quick jam is all about threes. Three ingredients: fresh fruit, sugar and a  flavoring. Three steps: macerate to extract the juices, cook down the liquids, ladle into jars.  Ready to experiment with several batches ranging from A to V, Anise to balsamic Vinegar. I began with 3 dried pods of star anise. 

Good choice! The licoricelike flavor of anise held its own as a subtle backnote against the not-overly-sweetened presence of Italian Plums.  We spread the jam on toast, on crackers, on jalapeno cheese scones. We paired it with Manchego cheese, feta and white cheddar. We plopped it on top of Asian fish cakes and grilled black cod. We added some to broiled peach halves... and we sampled more than I care to admit from a spoon. Yum to all the choices.

Today a second batch of jam incorporated 3 quarter-sized coins of fresh ginger in addition to the dried star anise. Ginger can be a potent ingredient, but not here. Three pieces of ginger didn't begin to impact the flavor. Not a problem, I just ended up with 1 1/2 more jars of tasty Plum Jam with Star Anise. 

Now the big decision is whether to make yet another batch flavored with star anise, or move on to another spicy choice? We might need another box of Italian Prune Plums while they are still in season. There are a still lot of tempting flavors to play with. 

Spicy Italian Plum Jam 

inspired by several online recipes, and canning tips from Marisa at FoodinJars

3 cups ripe Italian plums

2/3 cup granulated white sugar
3 whole star anise pods (my single choice for the first batch)
or try one or more of these, or your favorite flavoring  
   a sprig of fresh rosemary
   coins fresh ginger
   strips of lemon zest
   pink peppercorns
   Chinese Five Spice mix
   a drizzle or two of aged balsamic vinegar reduction
   plain or pickled jalapeƱos

Wash the Italian plums, chop into small, roughly 1/2-inch pieces, discarding the seeds. Place in a medium mixing bowl, sprinkle with the sugar and stir to mix. Add the anise (&/or other spices) and mix again . Let stand for at least one hour to pull out the juices which blend with the sugar and form a syrup (macerate).

Transfer all to a wide pan with sides high enough to contain the bubbles and splash when the mixture comes to a boil. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a steady, less energetic boil. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes after reaching the boiling point; stir frequently to prevent sticking and burning. (Caramelized sugar is tasty, burnt sugar is not!) Jam sets around 220 F, so use your candy thermometer and check it out as you go. No candy thermometer? then use the frozen plate test: drop a small dab of jam onto a small plate pulled from the freezer; wait a minute or two; if a surface skin begins to form, it's ready. If the jam is more like a runny sauce than a spreadable jam, cook it for another minute or two longer.

Remove and discard the anise (or any other solid seasonings). Pour into jars and move to a baking rack to cool. Add lids and pop into the fridge to hold... or you could finish by processing in a water bath to seal with canning lids.

My first batch produced enough jam to fill one and a half jars. We will definitely finish it all within the week so I didn't bother to process one small jar to hold in the pantry. As I experiment with different spices and flavorings, I'll probably begin to process small batches to hold for ourselves and to set aside as gifts.   


  1. I love making small batches of jam. My mom used to can foods all the time, but unfortunately I never learned the craft. I need to learn! Your jam looks like it turned out great.

  2. wow this is amazing I love no peel recipes. thanks for sharing this and stopping by close to home

  3. thansk for sharing this recipe, love no peel recipes. yummy

  4. This sounds great. I have never made jam but it is on my cooking bucket list.

  5. I would love your plum jam, the spices sound wonderful!


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