Sunday, September 6, 2009

Plum Jam

I would like to share with you, in as few words as possible, the joy of September plums.
The stone fruits are fleeting - once that plum or peach tree's fruit is ripe, the fruit falls and the tree goes bare in a matter of days. Out on my daily jog, I noticed our neighbor's apricot tree held precious, rosy-orange fruit. They were starting to fall in piles of delicate mush on the lawn below. By the third day, the tree was bare, and I knew it would be an entire year until our neighborhood would watch the tiny spectacle again.

We just aren't used to food being here and gone in a moment. Now, when we want a peach we go to the store and get it. No matter that it's January. Grapes? Well, it's summer somewhere on the planet. Being a fan of local food, I realize how spoiled we've become. But oh, what a beautiful lesson in the fragility of abundance, to see the plum tree turn red or purple, and to know that the tree will be done in a week's time.

So, with too many plums and a bit more time to devote to the kitchen this September, I've begun to preserve.

As I cut open each fruit, removing each stone, I tried to take my time. It is tedious work, but I wanted to enjoy the repetition, to understand that I won't be feeling the soft flesh and their rough little stones against my fingertips until one more year from now.

As September creeps into our summer, and the rains begin to fall again here in Seattle, let's take a few moments and enjoy the soft fruits at the markets and in our backyards. Take two extra minutes in the morning, and feel the moist air that is returning to us. This morning over my cup of black tea with milk, I cupped the hot mug in my hands, and looked out toward the city. The dark clouds were there, the fog was creeping up the hillside, and Seattle was once again returning to it's deep, brooding self.

There's just a bit of sunshine left, at least in my kitchen.

Simple Plum Preserves

2 pounds plums
3 - 5 cups sugar (or 2-3 of honey, or a mixture of both)

Pit the plums, and place them in a large saucepan. Bring them very slowly to a boil, adding 3 cups of sugar or 2 cups of honey. Turn down to a simmer and continue cooking until the mixture is well reduced. It should be fairly thick. Cool a small portion and taste, observing the consistency. Add more sweetener to taste, and cook until the final product is thick enough with your desired level of sweetness. Jar and give away to everyone you love.

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