I've been fighting off some unidentified malaise (I slept until 11:30 on Thursday and 9:30 on Friday), and I'm thoroughly tired of achy muscles, headaches, and sniffly noses. After a long weekend shuffling from my bed to the couch, I finally feel like myself again. Four days into a diet of Cheerios, olive oil pasta, and chilled fruit, however, my kitchen is filled with haphazard stacks of bowls.
Still, in the past week I have managed to make two different batches of preserves. My pantry cupboard will soon be overfilled with bright glass jars, and heavy boxes are being tucked away upstairs for gifts, cake fillings, and winter toast emergencies.
I was excited when my grocer opened up after a week of vacation with a big box of tiny prune plums—I expected them to be out of season by the time the shop reopened—so I bought a big bagful to make plum preserves. At home I cut them open, expecting the pink-tinged gold of the prune plums I've been eating for the past month, and was surprised to find a firm, tart, green flesh encased in the violet-black skin.
After a little research, I discovered that my mislabeled drupes were in fact damson plums, a tart, "cooking" variety that I have never seen in Los Angeles before.
I was uncertain how I wanted to prepare this jam at first—I still want to try the Cardamom-Plum Jam from this fantastic book—but in the end I decided to spike the fruit with white wine and fleck the jam with vanilla beans. The resulting spread is sophisticated and special—it's almost too decadent for toast, but it would be brilliant on a cheese platter, delicious warmed and drizzled over french toast, and I'm planning to try it with roast pork.
Damson plum preserves with vanilla beans and white wine
These preserves are sweet but still a little tart; if using a sweeter plum, I would reduce the sugar by at least a half cup.
3 ½ pounds (about 1 ½ kilos) damson plums
3 ¾ cups sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 vanilla bean
generous ½ cup white wine (I used Chardonnay)
Quarter and pit the plums. Place in a large heavy pot with the sugar, and lemon juice over medium-high heat. Split the vanilla bean, scrape the seeds into the pot, and add the bean to the fruit.
Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, place a sieve over the pot and return the syrup to the pot. Set the fruit aside.
Bring the syrup back to a boil over medium-high heat, add the wine, and boil, stirring occasionally, until the syrup is reduced by about half and is thick, about 15-20 minutes. Carefully add the plums, stirring gently to mix, and return to a boil. Boil until the plums are tender, the skins almost candied, and the mixture is set to your tastes (about 10-15 minutes longer). This preserve won't set firmly without a lot of cooking, if at all.
Can as desired.
Makes about 7 half-pint jars