Despite the craft fair tomorrow being cancelled (for good reason as the church focuses its efforts on helping their parishoners recover from hurricane Sandy), things are going well. Moroccan Pomegranate jelly is available again, while I sold out of the last of the Strawberry-Peach with Thyme… at least until next summer. It’s the nature (no pun intended) of focusing on seasonal ingredients- once something is gone, it’s gone until I can get the fruit again at its peak.
Which leads me to today’s recipe. Normally, I don’t expect good plums at the end of November where I live. By this point, I’ve written them off until late next summer. So imagine my surprise when a load of late season, super sweet, autumn plums comes my way. These were delicately flavored, sweet and juicy, and though they lacked some of the depth of flavor you can get with plums from earlier in the fall, they were definately worth it. Most of the plums ended up in the last batch of Roasted Plum Jam with Vanilla. The roasting process lends itself well to plums in general, and in particular these, where it was able to increase the complexity of the flavors and really caramalize the natural sugars in the fruit. A perfect cooking method for these unexpected gems.
But what to do with the rest? After eating several out of hand, I knew I really needed to pair them with something; they simply couldn’t hold up on their own and I didn’t want to make another batch of roasted jam. I had just enough for two small batches. But small batches of what?
There are certain fruits I rarely get to eat together. Rhubarb and peaches, for example. Unless I think ahead and freeze one of the two, a pairing I suspect would be delicious if I could ever save enough of one to make it to the others season. Another pairing I’ve been dreadfully suspicious would be tasty together are plums and cranberries. Usually by the time the cranberries hit the stores here, the only plums available are sad, tasteless, expensive creatures, fit for neither jar nor table.
This year I’ve gone a little nuts with the cranberries. I’ve made cranberry sauce with tangerine and rosemary for thanksgiving, cranberry-lime chili marmalade, and have intentions on cranberry-lemon marmalade coming up… not to mention dehydrated, pickled and honeyed. Cranberry chutney? Yes please! So you’d think I’d be tired of these tart little fruits, yes?
You probably don’t know me and my love affair with cranberries very well, do you? I’ll introduce you.
The recipe below encompasses my love of these two fruits. It’s plummy and cranberriey (cranberry-y? Cranberry-ee? I have no idea), without tasting overwhelmingly of either. The late season plums tend to be a little lower in natural pectin, but the cranberries more than make up for it. Because of the high pectin content of the cranberries, you might be able to get away with less sugar than I used…. but in this case, I followed my tastebuds. You could also easily add a bit more, if your tastes run a little less to the tart than mine do. The cinnamon sticks add the barest touch of spice, hardly noticable, but very nice. I have a tendency to maniacally over-spice if I’m not careful- restraint is not a trait I have when it comes to cinnamon, cloves or ginger (as a ruined batch of jam last week can attest), so I deliberately kept this one a little more low key. You could increase the cinnamon by adding ground spices during the cooking if so desired.
Safety notes: If in doubt, I check with a USDA tested recipe for proportions and acidity. Both plums and cranberries are high acid fruits and safe for home canning following the USDA guidelines.
Makes 5-6 half pints.
8 cups pitted and chopped plums
1 bag (12oz) cranberries, rinsed and picked through for stems
1 cup water
4 cups sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
1) Combine plums, cinnamon sticks and 1 cup of sugar in a large bowl. Cover and place in fridge, allowing to macerate overnight.
2) Prepare a boiling water bath and 6 half pint jars. You could also use 4oz jars if desired.
3) Combine the macerated plums and cinnamon sticks with the cranberries, water and remaining sugar in a wide, non-reactive pot. Over medium-high heat, bring the ingredients to a low boil. Reduce heat slightly, keeping everything at a low bubble until the plums are soft and most of the cranberries have burst, stirring regularly, around 15-20 minutes.
4) Remove cinnamon sticks. For a smoother jam, remove from heat and puree using an immersion blender. For a chunkier jam, simply mash with a potatoe masher or the back of a wooden spoon. For a rustic preserve, leave the fruit whole. If you use the immersion blender, the jam can get messy. A splatter screen for the next 10 minutes can be helpful. The jam will thicken naturally, due to the high pectin in the cranberries. Cook an additional 5-10 minutes until the consistency is nice and thick.
5) When you reach a consistency you like, turn off the heat. Ladle in to prepared jars, wipe rims and apply lids and rings. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Note: There are hundreds of sites with the basics of waterbath canning available. While I will eventually write up several ‘basics’ posts, for now I refer you to the National Center for Food Preservation-