Keep summer with you all year long by canning your favorite fruits.
- 3 pounds ripe plums (14 to 18 medium)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh lemon verbena
- Eight 4-ounce jars (or four 8-ounce jars) with rings and lids
- Canning tongs
- A water-bath canner with a rack, or a large stockpot and a tea towel
- Tea sack or cheesecloth
1. Cut a small plate in the freezer. You'll use this to test the jam's consistency.
2. Cut the plums into quarters and then chop them into roughly 1/2-inch pieces. Put them in a heavy medium-size saucepan. Add the sugar and set aside.
3. Place the jars and canning tongs in a large stockpot. Add water to cover. Slowly bring the water to a boil. Turn the heat off and let the jars sit in the hot water until you are ready to fill them. This step is necessary for sterilizing the jars. Use the tongs rather than your hands to touch the jars once you have sterilized them. (You can also do this step while the jam cooks.)
4. Cut the lids in a small bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let stand until you are ready to use them.
5. Cut the saucepan with the plums and sugar on the stove. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the plums begin to release their juices. Lower the heat to a very slow simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the jam begins to thicken, about 20 minutes.
6. Put the lemon verbena in a tea sack or in a square of cheesecloth tied into a bundle and add it to the plums. Continue to cook until the jam becomes darker in color and begins to thicken noticeably, 20 to 25 more minutes. To test for the proper thickness, drop a small spoonful of jam onto the chilled plate. Check it after 30 seconds; it should move slightly when you tilt the plate, but not run. If it runs, you need to cook the jam longer.
7. With the tongs, remove the hot jars from the water bath, saving the water for processing, and place them right-side up on a tea towel. Ladle the hot jam into the hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace at the top of each jar. If you see air pockets on the sides of the jars, dip a knife in the boiling hot water and run it along the insides of the jars to eliminate.
8. Carefully wipe the rims of the jars with a clean damp cloth or paper towel. Place the lids and fasten the rings.
9. Bring the water you used to sterilize the jars to a boil. Place the jars in the rack that comes with the canner and lower them into the boiling water. Process for 5 minutes. (If you don't own a canner, use the large stockpot you used to sterilize the jars. Place a folded tea towel on the inside bottom of the pot to cover it and bring the water back to a boil. Using tongs, carefully place the jars on top of the tea towel, right-side up, so none of the jars touches the bottom of the pot. Boil for 5 minutes. Depending on the size of your jars and stockpot, you may have to process in batches.)
10. Remove the jars from the boiling water bath and place them on a clean towel to cool on the counter. After several hours, push down gently on the tops of the lids. The lids shouldn't move, bounce, or make a popping sound. If they do bounce, they aren't sealed adequately to prevent spoilage. Refrigerate any jars that failed to seal and consume them first, within about a week.
Recipe printed with permission from D.I.Y. Delicious, by Vanessa Barrington (Chronicle Books, 2010).