Sunday, 3 May 2015

Reproducing a Plum and Star Anise Jam (and Fruit Leather)

Somewhere, somehow we ended up with a jar of plum jam in our pantry. It was beautiful, rich and with the surprise ingredient of star anise.
And unfortunately there was only one jar and we had no idea where it came from.
You see, the problem is that Dad occasionally buys jars of interesting jam at fĂȘtes and rota-marts, and various family and friends make preserves of their own and gift jars at Christmas or whenever we run out of a necessary product.

So when I saw a cheap box of plums, I decided the easiest way to get more plum and Star anise jam was simply to make it.

That and fruit leather. After all, I did have about 8 kg of plums to pit and dice.
I'm not sure I can really call what I was making Jam as it's definitely not 65% sugar. Instead it's ripe and over ripe plums, a bit of sugar to help with the caramelisation and setting processes and a goodly helping of star anise.
The recipe is basically this one, but I reduced the sugar again, threw in all the star anise I had and cooked the fruit down with the star anise still mixed in.

Fruit leather is one of those things we grew up eating. Not the horrid 'roll ups' but real proper fruit leather. And while I'd always wanted to make it, I'd never quite got around to it. Possibly because I occasionally leave things like that in the oven, forget about them and get upset at the waste of time, ingredients and effort when they burn.

Both recipes start off very similarly with the stone fruit needing to be pitted and diced.

The batch of fruit for the 'jam' was left to settle for a while, soaking up the little sugar and flavours of the star anise. 

Meanwhile, the fruit for the leather (with a splash of honey added) was stewed and allowed to cool. 

The aim with both recipes is to break down the structure of the fruit and reduce the liquid content. This is definitely possible in a large saucepan, though I found that the sheer depth of a stock pot stopped the liquid from evaporating properly. As a result, the 'jam' also produced a delightful 2 litre bottle of plum cordial. Hopefully I can use that to make marshmallows in the near future.

Once the fruit for the leather had cooled, it was sent through the food processor in order to break it down into a paste more in keeping with a coulis that with chunky conserve.

This was then spread on a tray, dumped in a very low oven (100C max) until it lost enough moisture to harden as leather. The process took quite a few hours over the evening, during which I would check on it every once in a while, and if necessary paint more moisture onto the corners of the tray to stop them from burning.

Once leather-ed, cooled, cut and rolled, they looked and tasted amazing.

With the fruit leather in the oven, the fruit for the jam was allowed to start stewing. I did leave this one for a little longer as I wanted the 'jam' to be suitably thick and gloopy so it would sit well on scones, under a dollop of cream.

With the jars sterilised the jam is now ready to be devoured by family and friends alike.
You'll have to make your own scones though.

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