Almaty is the capital city of the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan, where there is a rich history of fruit preserving. My neighbors, Zhanara (who hails from Kazakhstan) and Aaron have adapted a traditional Kazakh method of jam making for purpose of processing the prolific plums in their Temescal backyards.
Thanks to Aaron and Zhanara for this recipe, and tomorrow I’ll post another recipe for Oakland plum jam (just for variety’s sake).
- Put a few pounds of rinsed plums in a big, heavy bottomed pot– skins, pits, and all!
- Add enough sugar to cover the plums completely (Yes, really. Cover them. I had to ask Zhanara twice about this one to be sure she meant it.) Also, add a cup of water. If you have more than 5 lbs of fruit, add a little more water.
- Put the pot on the stove at very, very low heat. Stir with a big spoon a bit to make sure it all warms evenly. As the fruit, sugar, and water start to heat up, the plums will begin to swell a bit; the skins will start slipping off and smells will become decidedly exciting. These are all good signs.
- As time goes on, the plums will become increasingly damp and aromatic and the pits will begin to separate from the flesh of the fruit. Feel free to pick them out one-by-one with your spoon, or leave them in if you consider yourself possessed of a more rustic disposition. If you have a rustic disposition, be sure to warn your less rustic friends before they eat your jam and encounter any surprises.
- Keep stirring and be patient as the mixture continues to heat.
- As soon as the jam reaches a boil, turn off the heat and cover the pot. Allow it to cool completely (mine sat for a night or two while I scrambled around to get jars).
- Once the jam has cooled, check the texture. Your former plums should now be pleasantly jammy – albeit a little runny and intensely sweet by the standards of American commercial jams. Zhanara pointed out that this is more of a typical Kazakh style as far as jams are concerned. It reminded me of some Scandinavian jams, although those often tend to involve less sugar. Whatever the jam reminds you of, if it seems downright watery or otherwise unpalatable in its runniness, add a bit (~1-2 cups) more sugar.
- Return the jam to a low flame and bring it to boil very slowly, just as you did the first time. if you are satisfied with the texture, jar your jam following appropriate instructions. if you are not satisfied after the second boil, let it cool completely before boiling a third time. if you know the jam will be eaten soon, you might just pour the final product into a large receptacle, put a lid on it, and refrigerate.
Fruit preserves are often served in tea in Kazakh culture as well. As Zhanara notes “raspberry preserve cooked in this way is great to add to your tea when you’re having a cold or flu. Raspberry preserve is known for its antiseptic qualities. If you take several cups of tea with a spoon of raspberry jam before you go to bed, your cold will be much better the next day.”