If there is a plum tree in your life, you probably know the agony and ecstasy of plums. Very early in spring, radiant white blossoms cover every inch of their branches. Bees of all varieties find this state of affairs to be bee heaven, and plum trees literally hum with bee traffic. Plums are beautiful trees all year long, but at this moment, they are a wonder.
The agony comes next. With all the vagaries of our unsettled climate, incipent plums are often lost due to late frosts. Some years there will be nary a plum that survives these frosts. When the baby plums do survive the frosts, it usually means a bumper crop. Plums will hang off every branch, glowing in shades of purple red and gold, each one a sweet mouthful of such deliciousness. The off years feel like a small price to pay for this glory.
In early September, during a good plum year, we all disappear at one point or another down into the plum trees and often stay there for a very long time. It is impossible to eat just one plum and so we linger, juices dripping down our hands as we eat just one more.
Even with all this snacking, our plum trees give us a lot of extra plums in a good plum year. And this is a good plum year. An epic year. A year in which I lie awake at night trying to think what to do with all the plums. A year in which I am beginning to experience almost as much agony as a bad plum year.
Case in point: Over the weekend I decided to manage some of the plum glut by making plum jam. I found a recipe for Ukrainian Plum Jam that required no pectin and virtually no sugar. It all sounded so innocent.
According to the recipe, after pitting twelve pounds of plums, I would heat the plums with a tiny bit of sugar to a boil then simmer for ten minutes then cool completely for up to a day before repeating this process three more times. It sounded lovely to have an enormous vat of plums gently bubbling on the stove. So luddite. So cosy. So charming.
The reality was a different story. While our plums are abundant, they are also small so getting twelve pounds of pitted plum fruit took awhile. A long while. But hey, what are Saturday nights for?
Boil number one went smoothly. I thanked the babushkas of the Ukrainian plum jam recipe with all my heart.
During the second boil on day two, perhaps I was a bit less attentive. Suddenly the bottom of my pan was a scorched mess. I quickly poured off the plum mixture in hopes of saving the jam. Somehow it did not have a burned taste.
However, I felt a bit burned after an hour scraping the bottom of the jam pan.
Sadly, round three fared no better. I heated the pan at what I thought was a low enough heat only to find myself saddled with yet another scorch job. This is the pan right now- a work in progress with more scrubbing to be done.
Round four, I did not leave the jam boil once, and I used a different pan, stirring constantly. The recipe suggested I do a fifth round if the consistency of the jam was “not to my liking”. I did not care if the jam was the right consistency or even if there was any jam at the end of this project.
Here is the LAST PLUM JAM I will ever make.
Now I am going down to the plum trees to eat my fill, then I am telling the birds to have at them.