We like making jams and chutneys to give as presents and for our larder. The first fruits to come are plums, closely followed by Oulin's Golden gage, an exquisitely juicy fruit. I usually pick early in the morning when the fruit is soft and before the wasps are too active. Making plum or gage jam couldn't be easier.
4.6 lbs (2 kg) plums
1 pint (570 ml) water
4.6 lbs (2 kg) sugar
juice of half a lemon
knob of butter
Wash and wipe the plums. Make sure they are not too ripe and are dry and cut out any wasp damage. Over ripe fruit lacks pectin and acid, wet fruit can make the final jam go mouldy in the jar. Cut in halves (or thirds if you don't like too many lumps).
Put into a pan with the water and simmer gently until the fruit is soft. This extracts the pectin and acid from the fruit.
Add the sugar, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
Bring to the boil and boil rapidly until the jam sets when tested, removing the stones as they rise to the top.
Add the butter to prevent scum.
You'll know if the jam is set either by testing with a jam thermometer or by taking a teaspoonful and allowing to cool. If when cool a skin forms on the surface when you draw your finger across it, the jam is set.
Pot and seal while still hot.
Makes around 6.6 lbs (3 kg) of jam.
Nothing compares to the taste and colour of home made jam!
I use the same recipe for golden gage jam but because the gages were mostly very ripe, I added the juice of one lemon to help it set.
If we have left it too late to pick and wasps are abundant or I am picking for a tall tree, I use an apple picker. This is a really useful tool, especially if you have taller root stocks. It saves clambering around with a step ladder, speeds up picking and prevents wasp stings as well. You can either buy a very sturdy Burgon and Ball picker which can easily handle cooking apples later in the season and comes with its own robust handle or there is a slightly smaller and cheaper version by Nether Wallop without the handle (you add it yourself). The latter has a bag at the end and will carry a kilo of fruit. Both are well worth it if you have a lot of fruit trees and will quickly pay for themselves.
You could alternatively make a DIY version from a broom handle, by weaving heavy duty wire (try coat hangers?) into a basket form, putting a bit of foam in the bottom to cushion the fruit and attaching to the handle with a jubilee clip. If you make one please tell me what you used and send a picture of it. I'd like to post your design here to encourage others who want to make their own.