Washed and de-stemmed beach plums ready for beach plum jam.
Photo Credit : Amy Traverso
Beach plums are one of New England’s best-kept summer secrets, and they’re perfect for making jam. Learn how to make beach plum jam below.
I spent the last week of August in Wellfleet with my family. On Cape Cod, the end of summer is an ambivalent time. There’s the sense that the best of the season is behind you, the Forth of July parades long over, the Dog Days winding down. Young trees and wetland areas are showing hints of fall color. The families from other parts of the country, places where school starts before Labor Day, have already packed up and headed home. Shop keepers and waiters seem antsy, ready to wave you back down Route 6 in a few days.
There are consolations. Restaurants and beaches are less crowded. And then there are the wild fruits. All over the Cape, I saw rose hips the color of coral and inky blackberries ready to be picked. A bumper crop of beach plums kept calling to me from every roadside until I spent an hour skulking along Chequessett Neck Road, plastic bag in hand.
What are beach plums? If you’re not familiar, they’re a small species of wild plum that grows in clusters near the coastline from Maine to Maryland. The beach plums (which around the size of a large grape) emerge in late August or early September.
About thirty percent of the beach plums were ripe, but I was able to pick three pounds worth in short order.
The beach plums were stashed into the refrigerator at our cottage and hauled back to my kitchen, where I decided to soothe my end-of-summer blues by whipping up a batch of beach plum jam.
The beach plum jam recipe comes from our friend, Jason Bond, chef/owner at Bondir restaurants in Cambridge and Concord, Massachusetts. Jason is an amateur forager and I spent a day with him hunting (mostly unsuccessfully) for beach plums on the beaches of Westport back in 2011. I like that Jason’s recipe makes use of the natural pectin in the fruit to thicken the jam, rather than adding commercial pectin. The ingredients are so simple: plums, sugar, and a little red wine for flavor.
HOW TO MAKE BEACH PLUM JAM
To make beach plum jam (or beach plum jelly), first wash and de-stem the plums. Then put them in a pot with the sugar and wine to boil until the skins split.
Set a food mill over a bowl and work the jam through the mill to remove the skins and pits.
Put the strained puree back into the pot to simmer and thicken for about 25 more minute. You can check if the mixture is ready by putting a small dish in the freezer to chill and spooning a bit of jam on the cold plate. The jam will cool and thicken immediately, giving you a sense of the texture.
Pour the jam into sterile jars, leaving a quarter-inch head space, and process them in boiling water for 5 minutes. Listen for the tell-tale “pop!” of a good seal.
And now you have jars of summer-ripe jam to see us through the winter.
Are you a fan of beach plums? Now that you know how to make beach plum jam, you can enjoy their special summer flavor all year long.