Is there anything better than a not-too-sweet, slightly sour jam atop lavishly buttered toast? The answer is no, no there is not.
February for me is the month of foraging. The rambling blackberries that line our country roads are now dotted with purple black fruit that sparkle like jewels in the late summer sun. Filled with anticipation, I packed the car last weekend with all the requisite bits (gumboots, hat, water, basket) only to arrive at spot x to find last years bushes, the most prolific we’d found yet, were withered and brown, their long arching canes lifeless. Blackberry-less, I returned home and set about turning the damson plums the kids and I had picked during the week into jam. This is the resulting recipe. It is low in sugar so has a subtle sourness that is beautifully balanced by the floral notes of the roses. It’s delicious on toast atop lashings of good-quality butter. But I enjoy it most paired with a strong-flavoured cheese like blue or tasty on a good seedy cracker.
DAMSON PLUM & ROSE JAM
Makes 8-10 x 380ml jars
- 4kg damson plums
- 2.5kg sugar
- 2 cups rose petals, dried or fresh from a spray-free source
Wash and dry 10-12 jars (it’s always good to sterilise more jars that you might need, just in case!) and put in an oven set to 100°C. Leave there while you make your jam (they need to be at this temperature for at least 30 minutes to sterilise).
Put the plums in the sink and fill with water. Wash to remove any grimy bits. As you go, check the plums over quickly, setting aside any which are too far gone and putting the good ones into a large stock pot.
Add the sugar and set the pot on the stove over a medium-high heat. Use a wooden spoon to stir the plums and sugar as they begin to heat up and the skins split, releasing liquid. Bring to the boil and using a slotted spoon remove the stones that rise to the top of the pot. I set a strainer over a large pyrex jug and put the stones in here, periodically tipping the liquid that collects in the bottom of the jug back into the pot. I also remove the bulk of the skins as I scoop out the stones. Some people leave the stones in their jam, which you can also do.
Once all the stones have been removed, put a small dish in the freezer and, once cold, spoon out a little of the jam onto the dish. Return to the freezer and if, after a minute or so, the jam has set, then turn off the heat and stir in the rose petals. If not, continue boiling until you pass the set test.
Once the jam is set, put your jar lids in a heatproof bowl and pour over boiling water so the lids are completely submerged. Take the jars out of the oven and using a small pyrex jug, fill each one with jam, then screw on the lid. Repeat for the remaining jars.
Once cool enough to handle, wipe off any jam that might have spilled down the side of the jars then store in a cool, dark place. As this jam is low in sugar, it’s important you use a clean spoon to scoop it out of the jar, not letting it touch anything else so as not to contaminate the jam.