Since many Hungarian recipes call for plum jam, I thought it would be useful to show you the process of making this delightful spread. Homemade plum jam is a good way to capture the essence of summer and enjoy it throughout the year. Plums, those luscious, juicy fruits, are not only a treat for your taste buds but also a boon for your health. Plums are loaded with antioxidants, contain essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K, vitamin A, potassium, and manganese, and they are also an excellent source of dietary fiber.
The beauty of making your own jam is that you can control the amount of sugar and additives, making it a healthier choice compared to store-bought options. You can choose the preferred ingredients to create a jam that suits your taste and dietary preferences. Whether you opt for the traditional sweetness of sugar or explore the world of alternative sweeteners, making homemade plum jam allows you to tailor the recipe to your liking and dietary needs.
One of the ingredients I usually use in jams is pectin. Pectin is a naturally occurring substance found in the cell walls of many fruits, including plums. It’s a key ingredient in jam-making as it acts as a gelling agent, helping your jam achieve that perfect, spreadable consistency. However, the pectin content in plums can vary, and sometimes it’s not enough to set your jam properly. In such cases, you can use commercial pectin products, which are available in liquid or powdered form and come with clear instructions on how much to use for different fruit types.
Sugar vs artificial sweeteners
The choice between using sugar or a sweetener in jams depends on your dietary preferences, health considerations, and taste preferences. Sugar is the traditional and most common sweetener used in jam-making. It provides the familiar sweet taste and helps preserve the color, texture, and flavor of the fruit. Sugar also acts as a natural preservative by reducing water activity in the jam, which inhibits the growth of bacteria and molds. This leads to longer shelf life.
Sweeteners are often chosen by those looking to reduce their sugar and calorie intake, including people with diabetes or those on low-carb diets. Sweeteners can have different flavor profiles from sugar. Some may have a slight aftertaste, so it’s essential to choose a sweetener that complements the flavor of plums.
Sweeteners are often much sweeter than sugar, so you’ll need to use them sparingly and adjust to taste. This gives you greater control over the sweetness level of your jam. Jams made with sweeteners has a shorter shelf life compared to traditional sugar-sweetened jam, as sugar contributes to preservation. If you want to use a sweetener in your jam, carefully read the manufacturer’s instructions to understand how the sweetener should be used in recipes.
Preserving your homemade plum jam for months to come requires proper sterilization of jars. Sterilizing jars is a crucial step in preventing spoilage and ensuring the safety of your jam. Here’s how to do it:
- Clean the jars: Wash your glass jars and lids with hot, soapy water. Rinse them thoroughly to remove any residue.
- Boil or use the owen: There are two methods for sterilizing jars. You can either boil them in a large pot of water for about 10 minutes, ensuring the water covers the jars, or put them in the oven for 20 minutes at 90°C / 194°F (start heating the oven after placing the jars in it).
- Dry completely: After sterilization, let the jars and lids air dry on a clean towel. Avoid touching the inside of the jars and lids to prevent contamination.
Using preservatives in homemade jams is a matter of personal preference and intended use. If you prioritize shelf life and product consistency, preservatives may be a suitable choice. On the other hand, if you value a more natural, artisanal product and are making jam for personal consumption or short-term sharing, you may prefer to skip the preservatives and enjoy the pure, unadulterated flavor of your homemade creation.
Preservatives can significantly extend the shelf life of jams. They can also help preserve the flavor, color, and texture of the jam over time. Without preservatives, homemade jam may darken and change in texture more quickly. They inhibit the growth of bacteria, yeasts, and molds in your jam. This helps prevent spoilage and ensures the safety of the product.
While many preservatives are considered safe in moderation, some individuals may be sensitive to them or want to minimize their intake. If you prefer to avoid artificial preservatives, please, keep in mind that homemade jams without preservatives will have a much shorter shelf life. However, they can still be stored for several months when properly sealed and stored in a cool, dark place.
Roll up your sleeves, gather those plums, and start preserving the taste of summer in a jar!
- 2,2 kg (~4 3/4 lbs) ripe plums
- 700-800 g (~1 1/2 – 1 3/4 lbs) sugar
- 20 g (~3/4 oz) pectin (see details)
- 2 tsp citric acid
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
- 6-7 pcs. 300 ml (~10 fl oz) sterilized jars (see sterilizing above)
- adding any preservative is optional
Wash the plums, cut them in half and remove the pits. Chop the plums in a food processor, or with an immerson blender. Place the chopped fruits in a pot, add sugar, cinnamon and pectin, and over medium-high heat, while stirring constantly, bring it to a boil.
Once the mixture is boiling, let it cook for 5 minutes (stir continuously). Before turning off the heat, add citric acid (and any preservative if you want) and give it a good stir. Fill your hot plum jam into the sterilized jars, leaving a small amount of space at the top. Seal the jars tightly with the lids, and put them upside down for 5 minutes, then flip them right side up.
Place the hot jars in a box or basket lined with blankets. Cover and let them cool completely (it may take 1-2 days). Store in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight and heat sources. Refrigerate jam once it has been opened.
- You can decrease the sugar’s quantity, if you add some preservative to your jam. In this case 300-400 grams (~2/3-3/4 lb) of sugar will be enough.
- If you choose a sweetener, please, carefully read the manufacturer’s instructions how it should be used in canned products.
- Using a sweetener instead of sugar will result in a shorter shelf life. So, you may consider adding preservative to your jam.