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While not an “official” participant in the Tigress’ Can Jam Challenge – I decided to play along for the rest of the year.  The selection for September is peaches and other forms of stone fruit.  Having already done two peach posts this summer – I chose plums.  Plums bring back fond memories of riding through the plum orchards as both the horse and I both consumed huge quantities of italian style plums straight off the trees.  Unlike peaches, plums don’t require peeling – an added benefit to working with them (and another reason for the choice).

A quick inventory of my pantry revealed lots of jars of jam – but not too many condiments. It was time to expand my horizons with a fruit based condiment so I decided to try my hand at Chinese Plum Sauce.  In asian culture the five petals of the flowers of the plum symbolize five blessings:  old age, wealth, health, love of virtue, and a natural death.  Plums are also used in Chinese medicine to promote a strong digestive system and heart.   The plum sauce seemed like the perfect path to a healthy plum nirvana.  Besides – making a sauce meant I got to use kitchen power tools. 

I researched a couple of recipe sources and eventually chose the Chinese Plum Sauce from Sheri Brooks Vinton’s fabulous book “Put ’em Up.”  Some of the internet recipes seemed to play a little loose and fast with the vinegar – making me nervous about acidity levels.  I made some minor spice adjustments as noted to tailor the sauce to my tastes.  Being new to canning I did not touch the fruit/vinegar/sugar ratios to ensure a good acidity level. Besides being very tasty – this recipe will have your entire house enriched with the scent of plums and ginger – and the color change that the sauce undergoes as it cooks down to a rich plum color is magical to watch.

Plum Sauced Ribs

Chinese Plum Sauce – adapted from the Chinese Plum Sauce recipe in Put ’em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton

2 pounds plums chopped (I used a combination of red and black plums)

3 tablespoons fresh grated ginger

2 garlic cloves (I smashed the cloves prior to putting in the pot)

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 tablespoon fresh ground anise seed (original recipe called for star anise as the only spice)

1/2 tablespoon fresh ground cloves

ground ginger to taste

Put all ingredients except ground ginger in pot – stirring frequently heat on medium high until reaching a rolling boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until thick (about 20 minutes) – stirring occasionally.  Once thick use immersion blender to create a puree.  Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary (I added a little more ground ginger to up the spice quotient).  Ladle into prepared 1/2 pint jars leaving a 1/4 inch head space, remove air bubbles, wipe rims and cap.  Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.


Thankfully it is still peach season.  Labor Day is rapidly approaching and I realized that I need to start preserving peaches (rather than sticking them in pies and cobblers) if I want to enjoy them this winter.  Thankfully the State of Washington came to my rescue.

Washington put up a new site, Sweet Preservation, which focuses on canning recipes for Washington grown fruit.  The site is quite brilliant, in addition to recipes it has tutorials and downloadable canning labels. One quick read through and you will be inspired to make jam gift baskets for all your friends. 

Washington is famous for its Yakima peaches, so of course there are a number of peach oriented selections to choose from.  Their Peach Jam with Brown Sugar and Rum posting quickly caught my eye.  My husband had just returned from a multi-day float trip on the John Day River – and still had some Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum left over.  I took it all as a sign from some higher power…peaches are in season, I need to preserve some peaches, a peach jam recipe that calls for rum and left over spiced rum.

Besides just sounding oh so yummy – it was a no pectin recipe.  I have been experimenting with no pectin long cook jams and love their concentrated flavors.  This time – after two gel set tests there was gel set success – no additional assistance pectin required – woo hoo.  Not sure why it worked – I did buy peaches that were not perfectly ripe (fruit loses pectin as it matures) and I was quite generous with the lemon juice – using a combination of bottled and fresh.  Or, perhaps, the canning gods were just smiling on me this afternoon.

This recipe made four 1/2 pints.  I was a little sad that there wasn’t more jam when it was all over.  That seems to be the way with long cook jams – they reduce down a fair amount to get that amazing concentrated fruit flavor.  Guess I just need to remember to make more than one batch next time.

Recipe (courtesy of Sweet Preservation)

6 cups peeled and chopped peaches

6 tablespoons lemon juice

2 cups brown sugar

3/4 cup rum (I used Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum)

2 cups white sugar

Mix peaches, brown sugar, lemon juice and 1/2 of the rum in a large non-reactive bowl – mix well and let sit at room temperature for 6-12 hours.  Pour peach mixture into a non-reactive pot and bring to a boil – stirring to prevent scorching.  Once a rolling boil is reached turn down heat, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes (until fruit is translucent) – stir frequently to prevent scorching.  After fruit mixture is cooked add white sugar, turn up heat to medium-high and bring back to a full boil.  Continue cooking until gel set is reached (it took me about 20 minutes).  Once gel set is reached – add remaining rum and continue cooking for 2 more minutes.  Ladle into sterile jars and process in a hot water bath canner for 10 minutes.

cherry preserves with goat milk brie


She had me at you can serve them with roasted duck breast.  Cherries are still in season and despite the lack of gel factor on my last cherry jam adventure Sherri Brooks Vinton’s Classic Cherry Preserves recipe sucked me in.  Once again I found myself creating cherry carnage in the kitchen by pitting 3 pounds of sweet cherries – this time for Cherry & Black Pepper Preserves.   This recipe results in a rich preserve with a little pepper kick to spice things up.  It goes without saying – use freshly ground pepper to really make this preserve pop.   

coffee grinder makes quick work of peppercorns when large quantities are needed


Sheri Brooks Vinton’s book, Put ’em Up, has some great preserving recipes and tips.  I had been using freshly squeezed lemon juice in my recipes – but Sheri says no – use bottled.  The reason – lemons vary in acidity, who knew.  By using bottled lemon juice you get the same level of acidity every time.  Acid is important in preserving to limit bacteria grow and to help with gel set – so consistency is good.   

basic components of a classic jam – fruit, sugar and lemon juice

She is also a proponent of the classic or long cook method of jam making that doesn’t use additional pectin to reach gel set.  A longer cooking time results in a richer jam compared to quick cook methods that use added pectin.  Of course sometimes a little added pectin can assist a classic.  Learning my lesson from the last cherry jam experience – I checked gel set after the alloted boiling time.  Not quite set – boiled a little longer – still not set – and a little bit longer – still not quite set.  So what is a starting to get impatient girl to do – add a little pectin.  I added about a 1/4 of a package of powdered pectin – boiled for a minute and voila – gel set.  Whew!   

Cherry & Black Cherry Preserves Recipe from Sherry Brooks Vinton’s Put ’em Up   

Makes approximately three 1/2 pints   

3 pounds cherries – stemmed and pitted   

1 cup sugar   

1/4 cup bottled lemon juice   

1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper   

additional pectin (if needed)   

Place cherries and a splash of water in a non-reactive pot – heat over medium heat stirring and smashing fruit until mixture boils.  Add sugar, stirring until dissolved, then the lemon juice and pepper.  Continue cooking and stirring until gel set is reached (20+ minutes).  If necessary you can add sprinkle of additional pectin if jam is not setting.  Once set turn heat off and let rest, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.  Ladle into prepared 1/2 pint jars – releasing any trapped air.  Leave approximately 1/4 inch head space.  Process in boiling water canner for 10 minutes.  

Fig jam with triple creme cheese


Several years ago we left Hood River for the Portland Metro area, giving up a 2/3 acre edible landscape for a much smaller urban lot (which we are now turning into an edible landscape).  While the smaller lot has benefits, like actually having weekends free from non-stop gardening, there are times when I miss my former garden – now is one of those times.  One of our first additions to our home in Hood River was a fig tree, which not only thrived but produced the most amazing figs in vast quantities.  When we relocated we planted another fig tree – unfortunately we had a snowpocalypse in Portland that following winter and fig tree.2 did not survive.  We were sad and have not had the heart to try fig tree.3. 

Fresh figs


I appreciate figs a lot more now that I have to fight with the rest of the New Season’s shoppers to grab them when they are in the store.  I happened to luck out this Friday and picked up the last remaining bins of figs in order to make a batch of fig jam. 

Now fig jam, as strange as it sounds, is actually a great multi-tasker.  It can serve as a pizza base, dress up meats, and is just heaven when paired with triple creme cheese.  If you are so inclined you can make your own cookies with it as well (shhh don’t tell Nabisco). 


This recipe is pretty simple without much chopping and no peeling.  One word of warning – as I learned with the cherry port sauce experience – it is good to check gel set when adding alcohol to jam recipes.  



Makes about 7 1/2 pints 

2 dozen figs 

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 

Packet of powdered pectin (plus extra if necessary see recipe below) 

1/4 cup water 

1/4 cup port 

7 cups sugar 

Slice figs into rounds, place in small bowl and add hot water.  Soak for 15 minutes to soften skins.  Mix together pectin and 1/4 cup of the sugar.  Drain figs and combine with pectin mixture, lemon juice, water, and port in non-reactive pot.  Bring to rolling boil over med-heat stirring frequently.  Add remaining sugar and return to rolling boil – boil for one minute, turn off heat and test for gel set.*  Once finished let set for 5 minutes and ladle into clean jars leaving 1/4 inch head space.  Process in boiling water canner for 10 minutes. 

*I keep a set of metal spoons in the freezer.  To test gel set use an icy spoon to remove 1/2 spoon’s worth of jam.  Let cool for a few minutes and tip the spoon – jam should have an appropriate gel consistency, if not add a little more pectin and re-boil for additional minute and re-test.  For this recipe – I needed an additional 1/4 pouch of pectin and one re-boil – your results may differ.

Gorgeous red goodness - heaven

 July is the peak of cherry season in Portland, when you have a choice of several local varieties.  Our local markets are currently brimming with cherries that have not had to make a 1500 mile trek from warmer climates – heaven as far as I am concerned.  Once I finished eating just shy of my body weight in cherries, it was time for a cherry jam experiment. The inception of this experiment was a winemaker’s dinner at the now defunct Fife restaurant, where chef Marco Shaw served an amazing cherry reduction sauce alongside roast pork.  Since that dinner I have dreamt of recreating his cherry sauce, and given my new addiction to jam making – I thought what the heck let’s try it in jam form.   In my quest I adapted the Bing Cherry Jam recipe out of Ball’s Blue Book – replacing the almond liqueur with port and adding additional cloves in lieu of the cinnamon.    

Cherry-Port jauce on homemade yogurt


The result was tasty – but not really a jam (maybe I should call it a “jauce” as it is a little thicker than your average sauce).  The cherry-port jam experiment just goes to show that jam failures can still be quite good- so I am going to declare success – just not one that stays on toast very well.    

Cherry carnage


Cherry pitter with shield


Couple of notes on making cherry jam (or anything that calls for pitted cherries).  First – buy a cherry pitter with a shield, while still time-consuming it is much faster than pitting by hand.  Second – don’t rely solely on the shield, wear something dark and cover your workspace with a towel.  Third – expect your workspace to look like you have been slaughtering animals when you are done – pitting cherries is messy business.      

Recipe (makes 6 – half pints of jam/sauce)     

1 quart pitted chopped sweet cherries     

1 teaspoon freshly ground cloves     

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice     

1/4 cup port     

1 package powdered pectin     

4 1/2 cups sugar    

Mix all ingredients except sugar in a non-reactive pot over med-high heat until mixture reaches a rolling boil (one that cannot be stirred down).  Add sugar and return to rolling boil stirring constantly.  Boil for 2 minutes.  Ladle into 1/2 pint jars leaving 1/4 inch head space.  Process for 10 minutes in boiling water canner.

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