It is almost the end of summer, and if by any chance you happen to have a fruit tree in your backyard or in your garden, this is probably the exact and perfect moment to collect all of its ripe fruit. The memories from my youth regarding the wild plum trees that grow in my parents’ garden are unforgettable; no, I will never forget how much my father busted my balls every damn August to have me pick up all the fruit that I could. I had to collect plums from the ground, I had to shake the tree, and collect more plums from the ground, I had to climb the tree without braking any branches and fill several plastic grocery bags with ripe fruit. I would get sticky, sweaty, bored and pissed! Now that I think about it, moments like that helped me develop my cursing skills: left alone for hours at the time in the field, surrounded by flies and bees feasting on the juices, the dog jumping trying to grab my feet (or simply eat me off the tree), I would loudly express my deep disappointment for what I was convinced being nothing more that a variation of under-age-child-labor. Eventually, at the end of my rant, I would have picked a few tens of pounds of purple wild plums, I would have earned the despise of a few Saints, but also at least, I would have granted myself a somewhat unlimited number of plum-jam treats, from that moment until most likely the following summer.
Now, a few decades later, I regard those moments as very important lessons about life, nature and family… and cursing.
I cherish the memories of finally entering the kitchen with my load of fruit; my mother would be waiting for me with a nice snack, maybe some cookies and a glass of cold milk or some watermelon, the place would be clean like a surgery room, and a pile of gigantic pots would be sitting on the stove; time to wash and pit!
After a time out of a few minutes in fact, still with cookie crumbs stuck to my cheeks, I would step up onto my stool in front of the kitchen sink, my mom on the left so I could see her knife, the old Hitachi radio blabbing in the background (never, ever, ever put a TV in the kitchen!), and together we would wash and pit every single plum that deserved entering the pot. And for the next few hours, life would revolve around the kitchen, the pots boiling and bubbling on the stove would be the main feature of the whole house: everybody, sooner or later, would eventually make a few “passes”, spoon at hand, in front of the stove.
So, because tradition to me is very important, I felt entitled to enslave my kids for a few hours during our latest trip to Fiesole,
and have them collect as much fruit as they could. Debi and I then spent the rest of the day in the kitchen with my mom, for me to dust off my memories, and for the wife to get going with this very important yearly celebration.
Get your kids and go pick up some fruit, or take a stroll through your local farmer’s market, make a party out of it, and prepare for winter: a very few things can be better than a fresh jam tart, warm out of the oven, and your favorite pair of house socks in the cold months.
Makes: 8 – 10 pounds / Prep time: 45 minutes / Cook time: 3 hours 15 minutes
- 10 pounds plums, washed, halved, and pitted
- 1 (5 pound) bag of sugar (about 11 cups)
- Grappa, aquavit, or brandy for preserving the jam (2 tablespoons of liquor per 8-ounce or 12-ounce jar of jam)
1In a large stockpot, cook the plums over medium heat until boiling.
2Add the sugar, reduce the heat to medium-low, and stir well to avoid burning fruit on the bottom of the pot. Cook for about 3 hours, or until the desired thickness, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes.
3Remove from the heat and let cool, stirring every 10 minutes, for about 1 hour. Store in the refrigerator.
Importante!: Preserving jam in jars is easy, and it can last for up to 1 year when stored properly. Using a funnel with a wide hole, transfer the cooked fruit to 8-ounce or 12-ounce sterilized glass jars, leaving room to add 2 tablespoons of grappa, aquavit, or brandy on top (be sure that you’ve properly sterilized your materials before canning). Cover the jars with plastic wrap and tightly close with the cap. Store in a cool, dark place- such as the basement or cellar. When ready to eat, remove the cap and plastic wrap, stir the 2 tablespoon layer of liquor into the jam, and serve. Refrigerate after opening, after which the jam will keep for 1 month.