Yesterday, I made my favorite jams, using Italian plums and star anise. I have been itching to use this spice for so long but never knew where and how to apply it to my cooking. I know it is a key ingredient in Pho, which is my favorite soups but I haven’t cooked the broth myself, yet.
My mom and dad have a mini fruit orchard and a vegetable garden in their back yard and the Italian plums are in their prime right now (I also get my black currants, Cherries, Asian pears an other kinds of plums from them). The other day, my dad brought me a bag of just ripe plums. I would say about three pounds or so. There is more on the way! He lets them ripen on the tree and hand selects each one prior to picking them. He’s retired and has lots of time to do such things.
My parents garden/mini orchard:
Once I opened the bag and smelled them, I knew that the star anise would complement the plums perfectly! I was right. The sweet and tangy flavorful plum and the spicy licorice-y flavor of the anise combine and make magic! The jam is a perfect consistency for spreading on bread with perhaps peanut butter for a quick lunch, on waffles or pancakes for a Sunday breakfast or on brie to make a fancy little appetizer for a dinner party. I am officially in love with star anise!
I used to make jams and can them. Anyone who has made jam before knows the obscene amounts of sugar that is required; generally equal parts fruit and sugar. Canning the jam also takes a lot of time and heat and when it is 97 degrees outside, adding extra heat is not the best idea.
So what does one do? Make freezer jam. Basically, you take the same fruit, a third to half of the sugar needed for standard jam, depending on how sweet the fruit is and add a little heat. I still sterilize the jars and the lids. Why not be extra safe? Combine the fruit and the sugar together. You can blend it if you desire a smooth jam. I always blend my black currant jam. The texture is phenomenal since the berry has lots of natural pectin and gets jelly like. Then heat on low heat until you get the first boil bubble. Keep it on the heat for about five minutes and then pour into the jars with head room. Wipe the jars well otherwise the sugar will make the lids stick, making opening that jar later a pain in the butt. Since the jam is boiling hot when it goes into the jar, the lids will pop, technically, canning the jam but since there is less sugar, which is the preservative in this case, I still freeze them. I avoid botulism like there is no tomorrow. It just doesn’t seem like a good way to go, plus it’s easy to avoid!
The jam can be kept in the refrigerator for a while but for long term (more than six months) it should be frozen. I always use canning jars since I know they can be frozen. Technically, you can reuse any jar, but you have to make sure the glass can be frozen to -20 degrees. If you are planning on keeping the jam in the fridge, go ahead and reuse jars that you recycled, but if you are planning on sticking them in the freezer, invest in canning jars. The cost of jars will be justified with many years of use and all the funds you save on the delicious homemade jams you will enjoy.
Here are some pictures of the jams we already preserved. The recipe and procedures are pretty much the same and to be honest, I rarely follow a recipe, I tend to be the add a pinch here and a dash there type a gal.
Star Anise and Italian Plum Jam
Blueberry and Fennel (with lemon juice) Jam
Blueberry and Raspberry Jam (We also have blueberry and strawberry jam, no picture, sorry)
Black Currants (being washed)
Hope you guys take the time to make the Plum and Anise jam. It truly is a delectable treat!
Next on our agenda for jams will include: Peach and Cinnamon, Apricot and Lavender, Wild Plum and Balsamic Vinegar, Blackberry and Basil, Asian pear with allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon and Some fruit with Tarragon, I haven’t decided yet (any thoughts??). We will post pictures and reviews as soon as we make them.
Why so many jams you ask? Mainly because it is so fun to see, smell and taste your creations (instant gratification) but also because jams make great Christmas, birthday or hostess gifts and good items for bartering! We try our best to give gifts that are handmade by us or locally.
Thanks for reading! I hope I inspired at least one person to jam with me. Please send comments, recipes and pictures of your preserved goodies.