Last week a large bough fell off our elderly plum tree, smashing our rhubarb patch and scattering unripe plums all over our vegetable garden.

I was pretty distraught, because this was the first year in ages that our plum had produced fruit.  Was California's multi-year drought to blame?  Were we not getting enough winter chill hours, due to climate change?  Was our tree succumbing to old age?  I had no idea, but I really missed our delicious plums.  To see so may unripe fruit on the ground really stung.

I did what any normal person would do.  I gathered up the smashed rhubarb and all the green plums, parked them in the kitchen and proceeded to ignore them.

Robb baked several superb rhubarb cakes, using a recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  We shared cake with our neighbors.

I ignored the plums.

Miraculously the plums ripened on their own.

And some started to get moldy, which meant I needed to get serious.

I pulled out my various cookbooks, and tried to figure out why I'd had such uneven success in getting my jams to thicken.  Some books recommended cooking slowly, some said to cook very quickly.  Some said to add sugar at the beginning, some said to add it at the end.  Eventually, I put aside all the books except Harold McGee's On Food And Cooking and the Ball Blue Book on Canning and Preserving.  I took my proportions from the Blue Book, and paid attention to the temperatures proposed by McGee.  Apparently, there's a magical temperature that can only be reached when the percentages of sugar is optimum.  Who knew?

Five pounds of fruit and eight cups of sugar yielded ten half-pint jars.  I need to go buy more sugar, because I still have loads of plums left.


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