Everyone around here has been remarking on how the plums are ripening so much earlier than usual. Not being a native Californian, I can't generally comment on what's "normal" in the garden. When my lilacs bloom at Christmastime,as they did this past winter, I know that's wrong, but I'm inexpert on the subject of plums.
I spent a great deal of time this weekend making plum jam. Our tree was ripening, and the windfall fruit from the other week needed to be dealt with.
I pulled out my various recipe books, and was baffled -- as usual -- by the vagueness of the advice offered.
Tilt the container, if you can see the contents shift, the jelly is too soft. This condition can be caused by cooking too long (as when the batch was too big and so boiled beyond the ideal time limit); or by cooking too slowly; or by too much sugar; or by too little sugar or pectin or acid; or by not cooking long enough. Sometime you can try to salvage such jelly by cooking it over; bit not always -- but it's worth a try.
Well, that's not particularly helpful.
I made two batches of jam this weekend, one from our backyard fruit, and another batch from the tiny plums off of my friend DJ's tree.* My first batch was perfect. And the second batch was a sloppy gelling failure. I followed the exact same procedure, on both batches. One worked and one failed. As our 1940s kitchen lacks a dishwasher, the thought of dumping out all those jars, washing and re-sterilizing them fills my heart with gloom. I'm going to be very busy over the next two months -- hence the big rush to make jam -- and I'm not sure I'll be able to motivate myself to re-cook the runny batch of jam.
At the very least, I know I need to buy a candy thermometer.
Want to read what other folks are doing with their garden bounty? Mosey on over to Daphne's blog, for the weekly harvest round-up.
* If anyone can tell me the name of these tiny plums, I'd be very appreciative. They grow all over the East Bay, on trees with green leaves. DJ calls them Berkeley Plums, while Yolanda is less generous, referring to them as Trash Plums. They're very juicy, and make quite a mess in the garden.