Reine Claude (Green Gage Plum) and vanilla jam
So, what do you do when you find a big box of the fabulous Green Gage Plums at the farmers market? Make jam, of course! Green Gage plums are called Reine Claude in French. These particular ones, with greenish-yellow skin and occasional red blush, are called Reine Claude Crottée I believe. No matter the name, Reine Claudes are particular great for jams and preserves. In the raw state, they are fragrant, sweet and so juicy as to be almost watery. When cooked down into compote or jam, the liquid concentrates and the flavor intensifies. There's also a good amount of acidity to balance the sweetness and plenty natural pectin in the skin so there's no need to add any more.
I first bought about three pounds of these gorgeous fruit from Patrick at Thomas farm. Took them home, and made a quick batch of compote with a couple of vanilla beans, which is a recipe more or less cribbed from Christine Ferber's Mes Confitures book. They turned out so amazingly delicious that I ran back to the market just before it's closed and bought ten more pounds. Yeah. Ten. I went plum mad.
The first batch I made was so simple. Just the plums, sugar, a vanilla pod or two and a little lemon juice. The plan is to make a yummy jam to be the filler for my pop tarts. Even if you've never made jam before, or just the mere mention of preserving and canning is enough to send you to hide behind the sofa, you really should try it. If you find the whole preserving business too daunting, just make a small batch of jam and keep it in the fridge. It's really easy to do and you can have the flavor and consistency just the way you like it.
Green Gage plum and vanilla Jam
2lb (about 1kg) Green Gage Plums
1lb (about 500g) sugar
juice from 1 lemon
2 vanilla beans
Cut the plums into big chunks into a large, non-reactive pot (like a Le Creuset), discard the pits. Add the sugar and the lemon juice. Stir well to combine. Cut a round piece of parchment paper the size of the diameter of the pot, and place it on top of the fruits. Let sit for about an hour.
Cut two vanilla beans lengthwise, scrape the inside of the pods to get to all the seeds. Scrape the pods and all the seeds into the pot with the fruits. Place the pot over the stove and bring to a boil over medium heat. Gently stir to make sure all the sugar is melted. Bring the heat down to a simmer, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until it reduces at least by half or until it reaches the thickness you like.
These plums have so much pectin in the skin that you don't need to add any extra to get it to gel. To test to see if the jam is ready, take a small amount of jam on the tip of a spoon, and drop it on a small plate and spread it a little. If the jam is ready, it should gel up nicely when it cools down. If it's still a little runny, you might want to continue cooking for just a bit longer.
It really is that simple. If you're like me, you can just put the jam in a large jar and put it in the fridge (discard the vanilla pods first, by the way). It will be eaten up soon enough. If you want to keep it longer, then get a bunch of little jam jars and follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to fill and seal the jars so that they are shelf-stable.