How To Make Italian Plum Jam

028The Italian Plum or Prunus cocomilia is native to Southern Italy.  It is said that the plum may have been one of the first fruits domesticated by humans and that it’s remnants were found in Neolithic age archaeological sites dating back 10,000 years ago.  Over the years, this ancient fruit  has been used in cakes, preserved in alcohol, dried to make prunes and……made into delicious jam.  Right now in Southern Ontario, Italian  plums are in abundance and last weekend I honored my daughter’s request and make some Italian Plum Jam.  I don’t mind saying it turned out pretty darn good!

Makes 10 -250 ml (8.4 oz. or half pint) jars of jam

Ingredients:

4 lbs. of Italian plums ( 6 cups crushed)

8 cups granulated sugar

1 package of pectin (57 g /2 oz.)

Directions:

003Weigh, wash and cut plums in half.  Discard pit.

Either finely chop plums by hand or pulse in a food processor.  The second choice is much easier & faster. 005

Fill your canner up with hot water to the height of the jars that you will be using for your jam. It will take a while to get this volume to a boil so you better start now.  If you get ahead of the game, you can always turn it down later.

Fill a medium pot with water and add the seals and screw rings.  Bring this to a gentle boil.005

Sterilize your jars in the oven at 225 degrees Fahrenheit  for 10 minutes.  Continue to keep them warm in the oven until they are needed.

Combine mashed plums and pectin in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat.012

Add all the sugar.  I add 1/3 at a time and stir in order to dissolve all the sugar and not have it stick to the bottom.

Note:  Make sure you use a LARGE pot to make this jam.  The volume will really INCREASE when the jam begins to boil.  The last thing you are going to want to happen is have this sugary mixture bubble over in the pot and catch FIRE on your burner.  Been there and done that!

Once the sugar is dissolved, return to a hard boil for 1 minute.

Remove from heat. Stir and skim for 5 minutes.  This step is crucial in order to get a foam free jam (skimming part) that doesn’t have the fruit rising to the top of the jar (stirring part).014

Pour jam into warm sterilized jars to 1/4″ from rim.018

Wipe the lip of the jar with a wet paper towel in order to ensure that no jam is on the rim of the jar.  This could prevent a good seal from happening.  Cover with sterilized lids and tighten the screw rings.

Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the jars with canning tongs and cool on a rack over night.  Soon you will hear the sound of success as those lids start popping and ensuring a good seal.025

Complimenti (congratulations)!  Now tuck some of those jars into your cantina or cold cellar and wait for those cold days of Winter when you’ll need a warm reminder of some late summer tastes!025

The Crunchiest Dill Pickles Ever!

016People have been eating pickles ever since the Mesopotamians started making them way back in 2400 B.C. The pickles popularity grew over the years with notable mention from many famous people.  Cleopatra claimed that they were the secret to her beautiful skin.  Christopher Columbus ensured that his shipmates had a pickle each day in order to fend off scurvy and Napoleon believed that a pickle a day helped ensure that his troops remained strong in battle.  And then there’s CITY BOY & his family who all love eating them on burgers, wraps, or just as a plain old snack (especially daughter).

The only problem with homemade dill pickles is that they become mushy over time.  Well…..I’m here to tell you that the days of limp pickles are definitely over for this City Boy.  No more droopy, floppy, or shriveled pickles are ever found on the shelf in this City Boy’s cantina.  My beloved wife now BOASTS about the firmness, crunch and look of her City Boy pickles every time she is caught with her hand in the pickle jar!

The reason that homemade pickles generally become mushy over time is that there is an enzyme on the flowering end of the cucumber that does not get destroyed during the canning process.  As a result, it breaks down the fibers in the cucumber over time and turns it into a soft & mushy pickle within 6 months.  We are still eating Dills from 2 years ago (I went a bit crazy on the canning that year) and they still have a good crunch.  The secret is a product up in Canada called Pickle Crisp by Bernardin (Canada’s answer to USA’s Ball).  Just 1/4 teaspoon in each quart jar will keep your pickles crisp for long past a year!

Ingredients: Yields 6 quart jars

5 lbs. pickling cucumbers

8 cups water

8 cups pickling vinegar

1 cup  pickling salt (Don’t use table salt.  It will cloud your brine and turn your pickles to an unpleasant color.)

Into each jar add:

1/2 teaspoon mustard seed

1 large garlic clove (sliced)

1 bunch dill

1/4 teaspoon “pickle crisp”

Directions:

001

Weigh, wash and gently scrub cucumbers.  Discard any that appear spoiled.

Fill your canner up with water about 2 inches higher than the height of your jars and bring the water to a boil.  This will take a bit of time.

Sterilize your jars in the oven at 225 degrees Fahrenheit  for 10 minutes and continue to keep them warm in the oven until they are needed.004

Place canning seals and rings in a small pot and begin to warm them up.005

In the mean time, begin making your brine solution and bring it to a boil.

Carefully remove sterilized jars from the oven and add dill, garlic, mustard seed and pickle crisp to each jar.002

Firmly pack each jar with as many pickles as you can possibly fit into this space.  Look at it as a challenge because you don’t want those pickles to float up to the top of the jar.003

Once packed, pour the brine into each jar using a canning funnel, making sure to leave a 1/4″ head space in each jar.007

Wipe the lip of each jar with a wet paper towel.  This will ensure that no residue is left on the lip of the jar which will prevent a good seal.

Using tongs, place your seals and rings on each jar.

Using canning tongs, carefully place each sealed jar into the canner and process in boiling water for 15 minutes.025

Using the canning tongs, carefully remove each jar from the boiling water and leave to cool on a rack.

Soon you will hear the successful ping of each jar as it seals.  Now tuck those babies away in the cantina or cold cellar until the colder months when you’ll need a reminder of the summer!  If you can’t wait until then……just give 6 weeks to flavor!009