Tuesday, October 4, 2011

star anise plum jam

It’s a melancholic time of year.

I stopped to stare at three different kinds of plums at the store on Sunday. I felt this whoosh of regret: soon, the plums will be gone and I won’t be able to eat nearly enough of them before the oranges and grapefruit have recolonized the store for winter.

That sad thought made me think of my pretty little gold sandals, peaking up at me in the back room . . . not knowing they've been sent there because I can’t bear to put them away for winter yet. (But there is no question I won't wear them again this year. When a girl puts on mittens to drive to work in the morning, she does know that open-toed footwear will have to wait for spring.)

It is getting cold and windy and rainy and summer is done. There: I’ve said it out loud. Alas.

But there is still a little window to do something with all these lovely plums. 

My jam idol, Marisa at Food in Jars, suggested Italian plum jam with star anise and – after putting up a small batch – I must report that she was spot on.

In fact, she was so spot on that I didn’t change the recipe one bit, except to double the goodness.

I grew up eating Italian prune plums every day in September and October. We had a tree in the front yard that always gave us lots to take in our lunch. They are not the juiciest of plums, with a thin purple skin and almost green flesh. But when they’re ripe, they’re sweet. And – since I have an intense aversion to sticky hands – really easy to eat without making a mess.

I had no idea prune plums would stew up to be dark and deep and altogether more romantic. The star anise brings out an almost amaretto quality in the plums, which I found surprising and just right.

I like Marisa’s ideas of eating this jam with cheese and crispy bread or a cracker. Marisa had a nice truffle goat cheese. My unfortunate nostrils think goat cheese smells like a dirty barn, so I would also recommend Taleggio. Really, anything creamy with a hint of sharpness would do, I think. Just do something before all the plums are gone!

For Marisa’s original recipe, see here.

italian plum jam with star anise from food in jars

yields almost 3 cups

5 c. Italian prune plums, chopped
1 1/3 c. sugar
6 star anise blossoms

Put a small plate in the freezer. Leave it there.

Stir the plums, sugar and star anise together in a good-sized pot with a heavy bottom. Cover and set aside for about an hour or until it has created a syrup and/or you can’t bear it any longer.

Remove the star anise blossoms if you don’t want your jam to be too star anise-y. (I left mine in for the cooking process and don’t find it’s too much. But I leave that up to you.)

Place the pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Boil, uncovered, for 10 – 15 minutes. The jam will thicken and darken. When the time is almost up, take your small plate out of the freezer. Dollop a bit of jam on the plate. Leave it for one minute. Use the back of a spoon to push against that bit of jam. If it wrinkles a bit, it has set. Remove the jam from the heat.

If you haven’t already, remove the star anise blossoms now! Remove any skim on the jam.

Ladle into sterilized jars and process in a hot water canner for 10 minutes.


  1. Hi Stephanie,

    I have a bag of these delicious plums and I want to make jam. I have never heard of 6 star anise blossoms. What kind of flavour do they have? Where would I buy them?


  2. Wonderful! I know - I hadn't heard of star anise either until we visited my Dad a couple of years ago and he gave me a little bag of them.

    They should be available at any bulk food or spice store. I think Indian or Middle Eastern stores might also have them. They have a flavour like licorice, which I really like. Smell them and see if you like the scent; if you don't, I think the jam will be fine without them.

    Happy jam making!