Late summer is my favorite time of year. The skies are clean, the breezes warm and the markets are bursting with late harvest veggies and fruits. So many home and garden projects have taken me away from my writing time. In exhaustion, I find myself sneaking in an occasional afternoon nap, imitating my dogs who get tired watching me work.
This Labor Day weekend my family from Denver arrived to get in the last licks of summer and enjoy the ocean waves. My sister-in-law, Mirna, brought with her several pounds of Italian plums, just plucked from her Colorado tree. We would make Spiced Plum Jam she announced. I learned that Italian Plums are a European type (European domestica), and are harvested in late summer and early fall. Longer and thinner, more like a Roma tomato, they slice beautifully and the pits are much easier to remove than their Santa Rosa sisters. They remind me of elderly petite Italian women elegantly enrobed in deep purple capes.
This was my first experience cooking with these sophisticated beauties. Mirna, who is a fabulous and creative cook and often does not use recipes, demonstrated how to slice the plums, and then cut them in thirds to make eight cups.
Using a wide grater, we removed the rind of three lemons.
Into the copper pot went a handful of cloves, about three tablespoons, 6-7 cinnamon sticks, 11/2 cups of sugar and a scant two cups of water. This jam will have character and flavor!
The spicy plums come to a boil and reduced to a simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour. The kitchen is quickly infused with spicy aromas reminiscent of baking gingerbread men at holiday time. We chuckle because it is blazing hot outside.
The French Pandora tunes bring us back to summer and now time to pour the spicy goodness into clean jars for sealing.
15 minutes in a water bath and the lids give a sharp “pop,” creating the seal and indicating the plum jam can wait, patiently and infinitely, for someone to open the jar and delight in its sweetness. Spicy Plum Jam is the perfect holiday gift too. It pairs well with pork or chicken and is yummy spread on brioche toast. For those wishing to jazz this recipe up even more, Mirna suggests adding peppercorns or even crystalized ginger.
Cooking with Mirna is always fun and I love her spontaneity and joy of life. I envision many more culinary experiments with her in the future!