If a tree laden with fruit is growing in someone's garden, but the fruit is hanging over a public footpath, then is it stealing if you pick it? This was the question that flitted through my mind as I hurriedly filled my empty sandwich box with luscious sweet Mirabelle plums on a local walk a few weeks ago.
I had done a cursory check into said garden, and established that no one was home, and salved my conscience by telling myself that there were literally thousands of plums on this tree... but I couldn't help but feel a little guilty about taking them.
However, once home I put all guilt aside and set to turning these golden beauties into jam.
Mirabelles are a small variety of plum - the perfect size for stoning with a cherry-pitter, and much less messy to do so! They were perfectly ripe so were stoned with ease, and were soon bubbling away with some sugar and water.
The recipe I used - this one, from the fabulous River Cottage 'Preserves' handbook by Pam Corbin - instructed one to crack some of the plum stones to extract the kernels and give the jam a slight almondy flavour. But this sounded dangerous (I had visions of trying to bash them open with a hammer...) so instead, just as setting point was reached I added a scant teaspoon of almond essence. This has provided a wonderful addition to the fruitiness of the jam - the almond flavour is subtle, but adds a real depth to the preserve.
As you can see, I upped the almond level in one of my three jars by stirring through a generous handful of slivered almonds, which should provide an interesting texture. I had never added nuts to a jam, but I have my fingers crossed that it will be a successful experiment.
A quick check through my kitchen cupboard has revealed that I now have 5 different varieties of home-made jam, all made in recent months. With blackberries still to come, I fear that there will be even more by the time 2009 ends. We don't even eat that much jam... I think we'll just have to make the clotted cream tea a weekly occurance!