Easy-peasy Plum Jam

I always enjoy watching our Plum Tree as it is the most obvious indicator of the change of seasons. White blossoms are the early signs that Spring is approaching and very soon, green leafy buds appear. When you look again, the blossoms have been replaced by beautiful bright green leaves. As the days grow warmer and longer, the fruit finally appears and it is an absolute joy to watch them turn from tiny green baubles to plump dark red fruit.

Plum Jam

It’s then a mad dash to get to them before the birds do but we inevitably have to share them with the local wild life. I try to rationalise that they get to keep the ones that are on the ground and I get the ones in the tree, but they haven’t quite cottoned on to that arrangement yet.

And beware the thieves who stole all the fruit from our tree a couple of years ago. I was furious that someone would have done that and made quite a noise in the neighbourhood so for the last two years our tree has been left alone – thankfully. Perhaps my squawking reached the ears of the guilty, or perhaps it coincided with the move of the family with 75 children (only kidding, but it always seemed that way) that used to live across the road – but no matter, we’ve been able to enjoy our delicious fruit since then.

One year I made Plum Chutney which was delicious, but last Summer I came across this recipe and fiddled with it a bit, as I wanted more of the fruit and less of the sweet sugary-ness. It also contains no Pectin which, without going into too much scientific babble, requires a lot of sugar to thicken the consistency. Jams bought from supermarkets are so full of sugar you’re lucky if they have any fruit in them at all. My son recently pointed out that we should do the same with the Loquat fruit as well, but so far the Wood Pigeons always devour them before I realise they’re ripe. I see they’re appearing so perhaps I’ll do some experimenting soon.

But back to my Plum jam.  I set about making my first jam. It really is very easy, although the entire process takes about two days to complete because you bring the mixture to a slow rolling boil four times, being careful not to let the mixture catch on the bottom of the pot. And although I can’t give exact measurements because you need to adjust it to the quantity of fruit that you are able to harvest, I’ll give it a bash.

Plum Jam preparation

ingredients:
1 kg ripe plums
1 cup castor sugar
glass canning jars with lids

  1. Wash the plums well. Halve and remove the pips. Place cut fruit into a large bowl.
  2. Pour the sugar over the fruit and allow to stand at room temperature for about an hour (called mascerating – see Tips for a definition of masceration). You can always add more sugar during the cooking process if it isn’t sweet enough. Most, if not all of the sugar will dissolve.
  3. Transfer the plums and sugar mixture into large pot.
  4. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil keeping it uncovered. You do have to keep an eye on it though as it needs to boil evenly so if you see it only bubbling in the middle or around the edges, give it a gentle stir. Once it is bubbling evenly, turn the heat down slightly and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat completely and leave it to stand on the stove top until cooled to room temperature.
  5. Repeat step 4 three more times over the next day or so. There is so much sugar in it that it won’t spoil being left on the benchtop or stove overnight. If you prefer a thicker consistency, simply repeat step 4 another couple of times. Each time more liquid evaporates, thickening the mixture. You need to pay close attention each time you boil it though as it may catch on the bottom far more easily due to there being less liquid in the pot.
  6. The last time you boil it, you will need to transfer the mixture to sterilized jars.
  7. See Tip below to follow instructions to sterilize jars and lids.
  8. Carefully remove the jars from the oven and using a funnel or spoon, transfer the boiling mixture into the jars leaving about 1 – 2 cm space from the top.
  9. Increase the oven temperature to about 160°C.
  10. Screw the lids on sufficiently to keep a tight seal, but not too tight as air bubbles need to be able to escape. Return the tray with the full jars and lids to the oven and leave for 15 minutes.
  11. Carefully remove the tray from the oven. Don’t tighten the lids more as this may affect the seal already in place.
  12. Flip the jars upside down and leave to return to room temperature.

To sterilize the jars:
Wash the jars and lids in warm soapy water.
Place the jars onto a baking tray and into the oven for 20 minutes at about 100°C until completely dry.
Boil the lids for 5 minutes.
Follow steps 8 – 12 above.

Click here to find the current US Complete Guidelines to Home Canning.

Enjoy!

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Afghan Biscuits

Yesterday we went to the Auckland Home Show. The weather was forecast to be miserable and the traffic and parking at these types of shows is always a nightmare, but my dear husband decided that it was time to go. You see, we have a few ideas for home renovations and these shows are always great to see the latest goodies and gadgets available and pick up fantastic bargains, except that our ideas are still ideas and haven’t even moved into the planning stage just yet.

Afghan Biscuits

I have to admit that it was quite enjoyable wandering the halls and collecting catalogues and business cards along the way and about 15 minutes before we were ready to leave, we turned a corner and found ourselves in front of the SMEG kitchen appliance and whiteware stand.  For some reason they had a bright orange Lamborghini on show so that distracted my family but my attention was taken by the most beautiful fridge I’ve ever ween. Honestly, I experienced tunnel vision and I could feel my chest tighten and breath quicken with excitement? adoration? love? I’m not sure, and yes I know it sounds ridiculous, but a few years ago we remodelled the kitchen after our stove chose to misbehave and blow up in the middle of the night, waking us to the smell of burning and smoke coming from the oven. Our fridge was still relatively new so it was included in the remodelling. The plan was always to replace it with something more modern and family friendly but investigations since then have taught us that fridges are generally not made to that size anymore. We’ve now come up with a plan to relocate the position of the fridge, but that would require the purchase of a new larger one but as it’s a “want” and not a “need” it has to wait a while so has been relegated to the list of “ideas”.

My discovery yesterday fits EXACTLY in the new position for the much wanted new fridge. Sadly, my budget doesn’t extend that far just yet and I came home and Googled the model and dimensions. I must have stared at it for about half an hour while playing out different schemes in my mind. I even imagined Chocolate Goose becoming really famous where I’m being offered free products to trial and use in my kitchen…yeah right…like SMEG are really going to give me a fridge. I can dream can’t I?

So I did the next best thing and got out my baking goodies and proceeded to make these delicious biscuits. While trying to find the perfect recipe a few years ago I came across this one and I can’t fault it. Some recipes had too large a quantity of crushed cornflakes or the dough was too wet, but these work perfectly for me. I make the biscuits a fair size, not too big and not too small and enjoy that they are not a very hard biscuit that snaps when you bite into it. They almost crumble into your mouth and melt, while the crushed cornflakes add a lovely fine texture.

ingredients:
170 g butter (room temperature)
½ cup / 100 g brown sugar
1½ cups / 180 g flour
3 Tbsp cocoa
½ tsp baking powder
2 cups cornflakes

Icing:
½ cup chocolate drops
2 Tbsp sour cream

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (160°C fan-forced).
  2. Place a sheet of baking paper onto an oven cookie tray.
  3. Cream the butter and brown sugar together in an electric mixer.
  4. Sift the dry ingredients together and add to the creamed mixture.
  5. Crush the cornflakes and knead gently into the cookie dough.
  6. Roll the dough into round balls and flatten slightly.
  7. Bake for 12 – 14 minutes, remove from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack.
  8. To prepare the icing, gently melt the chocolate drops in the microwave or using a double-boiler on the stove. Stir in the sour cream until well combined.
  9. Ice each cooled biscuit with a blob of the chocolate mixture and add a walnut piece on top of each.
  10. Allow time to set – if you can – or gobble them up with the melty chocolate mixture.
  11. Once set, they can be stored in an airtight container for 3 – 5 days.

Enjoy!

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Butterscotch self-saucing Pudding

Father’s Day in New Zealand is in September – today in fact. Unlike the rest of the world who celebrate in June, we get to wait until Spring to spoil the fathers in our lives…or they get to wait, not sure, but today looks like it’s going to be a gloriously fresh Spring day. I can see the new white blossoms on the plum tree, the sun is rising into a beautiful clear blue sky and we have a few family activities planned for outdoors.

Butterscotch self-saucing Pudding

What makes a good father? I can tell you because I live with one. And I’m not talking about my own, I see the wonder of fatherhood in action in our home every day. My husband absolutely loves family time. We are a unit not to be messed with. Our time together is precious and even small milestones and achievements are to be celebrated.

He makes the effort every day to enjoy special one on one time. Weekends are trips to soccer or cricket. He makes every effort to take time off work whenever possible to attend a sports day or assembly where awards are being received. He’s kind, generous, fair and knows all about cars, jets, play fighting and wrestling, computer games, fixing bicycles, playing cricket, soccer, rugby. He suggests trips to the skate park and beach in summer where any number of new games are always being invented.

A Father offers protection, guidance, discusses solutions to problems, is far less emotional about things than a Mum so is generally more logical and straight forward. We’re blessed to have this particular father in our lives. Yes, he’s strict and takes no nonsense but ours is a fun, loving home. Today we’ll celebrate this special man’s day with a few steaks, perhaps some creamy mushroom sauce and his favourite baked pudding – Butterscotch self-saucing Pudding.

ingredients:
1¼ cups self-raising flour
½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
150 ml milk
1 egg
65 g butter, melted
¼ cup golden syrup
300 ml water, boiled
icing sugar for dusting
vanilla yoghurt or ice cream to serve

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and lightly grease a 1 litre capacity baking dish.
  2. Sift the flour and add half the sugar. Stir to combine.
  3. Place the milk, egg, butter and 1 teaspoon of golden syrup into a jug or bowl and whisk until well combined.
  4. Gradually whisk the milk mixture into the dry ingredients until it forms a smooth texture. Pour the batter into the prepared dish and use the back of a spoon to smooth the surface.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining brown sugar evenly over the surface.
  6. Mix the remaining golden syrup with water and stir well, then carefully pour it over the pudding. It will make holes in the top of the pudding, so pour it over the back of a spoon, holding it fairly close to the mixture. This spreads the water flow out a bit and softens it’s landing on the mixture so it doesn’t churn it up too much.
  7. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes or until golden and set. Don’t bother with a cake tester as it is meant to be gooey inside.
  8. Remove the pudding from the oven and let it stand for 5 minutes before dusting with the icing sugar.
  9. Serve with a dollop of yoghurt or ice cream.

Enjoy!

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