As summer is fading away, and with it all colorful juicy fruits, it’s time to prepare for the approaching winter and its long cold nights by making some preserves that will last through the frosty season. When refrigerators (and import goods) didn’t exist, the only way to preserve food was to make jams and pickles, so that one could get the right quantity of vitamins and nutrients all year round, and at the same time remember the hot sunny days of long-gone summer.
The period between late August and September is the season of plums. Plums of several colors, shapes and flavors can be found in every market or supermarket, the last juicy fruit of the soon-to-fade summer. As told about the End-of-Summer Greengage Crumble, greengages are my favorite of all plums. Probably thanks to their powdery-green color or to their tiny size, they look so attractive and tasty. As I am a fanatic of jams, I couldn’t help but try to make something of them: usually I’m not enthusiastic about plum jams, but greengages are an exception. I use little sugar compared to the fruit quantity, because I generally don’t like sugary jams, and greengages are rather sweet on their own.
As for any jam or marmalade, choose ripe (but not too ripe) fruit, discarding any damaged or squishy element you find; otherwise the taste of your jam could be affected.
1 kg (2 lb 3.3 oz) greengages, stones removed
400 g (14 oz) caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
1/4 cup water
juice of 1 lemon
Preparation time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: 30 + 20 minutes
Wash the greengages, halve and pit them. Put them in a high pan and cook them together with water and the vanilla pod for about 30 minutes, or until the fruits blend and get extremely soft.
Remove from heat. Add lemon juice and sugar and stir well until sugar is completely dissolved. Return pan to the heat and bring back to the boil, skimming off scum from surface if needed. Cook for about 20 minutes or until jam is set. To know if the setting point is reached, try the wrinkle test: drop a little jam onto a cold (better if previously refrigerated) saucer, wait for the jam to cool, then tilt the saucer on its side. If the jam doesn’t slide off, but wrinkles on its surface, it is set. Otherwise, a little more cooking is necessary. Finally remove the vanilla pod (actually it can be kept aside to make vanilla sugar).
For a more delicate finish, you can mash the fruits with a blender to have a creamier texture. In this case, mash the fruits after removing the pan from heat and before stirring in sugar and lemon (of course, the vanilla pods need to be taken away before mashing greengages).
Pour the jam into airtight jars. Cover with lid. To sterilize and vacuum-seal the jars, put them in a pan, cover them with cold water and bring to the boil. Let boil for about 20-30 minutes. Remove from the pan and let them cool upside-down, so that the lid is sterilized, too. When they get cool, you should hear the vacuum-sealing “click”. Jars are perfectly sterilized and can be stored in a cool and dry place.