Saturday, July 28, 2012

Plum Butter

My grandmother used to be the queen of jams, jellies, and preserves.  There were very few days in midsummer when I would walk into her kitchen and not see a big pot of sugar and fruit bubbling away on the stove, or jewel-toned jars of preserves lined up on the wooden farm table waiting to be topped with liquid paraffin.  What remained in the bottom of the pot after the jars were filled was poured into a heavy ceramic bowl and placed on the table next to a big pile of warm biscuits.  I could not wait to dig in!

When she passed away and I inherited her cookbook, I immediately paged through looking for her recipes.  Largely, all I found was one lowly recipe calling for equal parts of sugar and fruit, cooked until done.  It was because of this lack of information, I think, that I set out to collect as many recipes for jams and jellies that I could, always envisioning my own kitchen smelling of hot fruit, and jars filled with the literal fruits of my labor.  This past week I finally decided to try one of them, choosing a recipe that I know my grandmother had never made.  She was an ace at apple butter, but plum butter?  Never!  Her plums were reserved for pies and coffeecakes.

This recipe is from a July 2001 issue of Gourmet magazine (yes, I have been saving them for a long time!).  It’s easy to do, just be sure not to overcook it (as I did the first time) or you’ll end up with something tasty, but akin to a gummy candy.

Plum Butter

1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
4 lbs. Melissa’s Plumcots, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
3 cups sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Special equipment: 5 (1/2-pint) canning jars with lids and screw bands; a food mill fitted with fine disk

Sterilize jars and lids.

Freeze several small plates to use for testing butter.

Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot. Add pod and stir in remaining ingredients. Slowly bring to a rolling boil over moderate heat (this will take about 15 minutes), stirring frequently. Boil, uncovered, stirring frequently, until plums are tender, about 5 minutes.
Discard pod. Purée plums with liquid in batches in food mill set over a bowl. Transfer purée to pot and simmer over low heat, stirring and scraping bottom of pan frequently, until very thick, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (To test for doneness, drop a spoonful of plum butter on a chilled plate, then tilt; the mixture should not be runny. It should be about as thick as jam.)

Drain jars upside down on a clean kitchen towel 1 minute, then invert. Ladle plum butter into jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space at top, then run a thin knife between plum butter and jar to eliminate air bubbles.
Seal, process, and store filled jars, boiling plum butter in jars 10 minutes.

Let plum butter stand in jars at least 1 day for flavors to develop.

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Tracy's Living Cookbook said...

this is my kind of eating! I love home canned jams and jellies - How lucky you are to have your grandmother's cookbook! I imagine her handwriting is on some of the pages?

Martha said...

The only plum jam I've made is from our wild plums -- and it was so good! It is nice to follow in your grandmother's footsteps. I think we have more ties to our ancestors with something as humble as canning and preserving as we do anything.

Sarah said...

I've never made jams or jellies. Tried orange marmalade once, but it didn't set up as it should have. This looks yummy.

Lynn said...

Sounds great! I've made pear and rhubarb butter, not plum... yet:@)