Friday, 22 July 2011

Plum and Cardamom Conserve

I hate to sound like the gal who always complains about the weather... But seriously, wake me up when it's September.

Outside seems distinctly inhospitable and my natural instincts to nest are in full swing. Preferably in the basement, where it's cool.

But I do still get drawn to the kitchen, and have even been known to, gasp, boil things in this heat. Like big things. Like steaming kettles. I have a problem, I realize.

I also know I'm not alone in this. Funny how canning season is always in the hottest months. Remind me to can some winter stuff this year. Wait, what grows in Canada in the winter? Pickled icicles might not cut it.

But if I can what's in season now, I can enjoy it in the winter. While I look out the window from the comfort home. And wait for summer.

This is a delicious plum conserve that you can try at home if you have a good bounty of plums.
They call for Italian prune plums, I have no idea what they are and used regular dark plums. My changes: I upped the lemon juice a bit, used the zest as well, used amaretto instead of brandy and used little cardamom seeds (from the inside of the pods), about 1 tsp, which I put in right at the beginning. I think my changes really added to the dish, and balanced the sweetness nicely.

Italian Prune & Cardamom Conserve

From The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders

The term conserve typically refers to a jam involving both fresh and dried fruit, often with the addition of liquor, spices, and nuts. These preserves are traditionally served alongside savory dishes or with cheeses, as well as for breakfast. In this delicious fall conserve, Italian prune plums are accentuated by dried currants and a generous splash of plum brandy.

4 pounds pitted and halved Italian prune plums
1 1/2 pounds white cane sugar
3 ounces strained freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 ounces slivovitz or other dry plum brandy
2 ounces dried currants
1/2 teaspoon white cardamom seeds

Day 1
Place the prune plums, sugar, lemon juice, slivovitz, and currants into a glass or hard plastic storage container. Stir well to combine, cover tightly, and refrigerate for 48 to 72 hours, stirring once each day.

2 to 3 Days Later
Place a saucer with five metal teaspoons in a flat place in your freezer for testing the jam later.

Transfer the plum mixture to an 11- or 12-quart copper preserving pan or wide nonreactive kettle. Place the cardamom seeds into a fine-mesh stainless steel tea infuser with a firm latch and add it to the mixture.

Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently with a large heatproof rubber spatula. Continue to cook, monitoring the heat closely, until the conserve thickens, 35 to 45 minutes. Skim off any surface foam with a large stainless steel spoon. Scrape the bottom of the pan often with a heatproof rubber spatula, and decrease the heat gradually as more and more moisture cooks out of your conserve. For the final 10 to 15 minutes of cooking, stir the conserve nearly constantly to prevent burning.

To test the conserve for doneness, carefully transfer a small representative half-spoonful of conserve to one of your frozen spoons. Replace the spoon in the freezer for 3 to 4 minutes, then remove and carefully feel the underside of the spoon. It should be neither warm nor cold; if still warm, return it to the freezer for a moment.

Nudge the conserve gently with your finger; if it seems thickened and gloppy when you nudge it, it is either done or nearly done. Tilt the spoon vertically to see how quickly the conserve runs; if it runs very slowly, and if it has thickened to a gloppy consistency, it is done. If it runs very quickly or appears watery, cook it for another few minutes, stirring, and test again as needed.

 When the conserve is ready, remove the tea infuser, then skim any remaining foam and discard. Pour the conserve into sterilized jars and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions or as directed on page 52. (Or this page from Simply Canning)

Approximate Yield: five to six 8-ounce jars
Shelf Life: 18 months