Plums of every kind are abundant in California. I have seldom paid for a plum in my life time. My parents have several trees with little wild golden plums. Another friend has a stately Santa Rosa plum that dominates his backyard, and yet another friend has an elderly gentleman neighbor who is very happy to exchange plums for a few jars of jam. Like all stone fruits, plums come in high summer, when the heat is really oppressive and close to dangerous. These plums arrived in the midst of a heat wave a few weeks ago where the indoor temp of the house got up to 93 degrees! We usually do quite well without AC because the Delta breezes come in the evening and cool everything right down. That heat wave was made worse by nighttime temps that stayed in the 80's. All of this is just to explain why I had a freezer full of plums. It was getting pretty ridiculous. We couldn't even get at the ice trays without a major operation. So, while Mr. Dwayne was at Comic Con this week, I planned to cook those plums and make some room in the freezer. It has still been pretty hot, but the pleasant nights have made up for any heat accumulated during the day.
After three batches (24 half-pint jars!) of my old standby, plum and pineapple, I just had to do something different. I followed my nose to the spice cabinet and found that cardamom and rainbow pepper made a unique and plum-friendly blend. My plan was to take the spices, bash them up a bit and put them in a tea ball to infuse the jam. My plan when awry when the tea ball burst open towards the end of cooking. No one wants to bite into a cardamom pod. I whipped out my handy food mill and put the mixture through, capturing all the bits and pieces. The only disappointment is that this process also removed the skins. But, the beautiful color and tartness of the skins had already been infused into the jam. So, if you choose to do this, you can do it either way - cook and strain or use a strainer that works. A cheese cloth bundle would also work.
In the finished product, the cardamom is forward in a nice way. The pepper is very subtle. I really wanted that pepper corn aroma more than heat. I used 1 tbsp. of each. I think that next time, I would reduce the cardamom a little and increase the pepper. But, if you want to just flavor with cardamom, 1 tbsp. is a good amount. Please use good green pods and crack them just before cooking. Powder will just not work for this purpose.
As usual, I had a bit left over and I was heading out to a dessert potluck in the evening. This was a very successful experiment. It is puff pastry, an almond paste custard, dollops of jam and then toasted sliced almonds. Very impressive. Not much effort.
You could make this tart with any jam, but be sure to use a very tart jam to offset the rich, sweet custard.
A beautiful reward to share with friends after a long, hot day of jamming!
Cardamom & Pepper Plum Jam
3 1/2 lbs pitted and chopped plums
4 1/2 cups cane sugar
1 tbsp. rainbow or black peppercorns
1 tbsp. whole green cardamom pods
1 pkg. Sure Jell reduced sugar pectin in the pink box
Add the chopped plums to a large pot. Use a mortar and pestle or a heavy pan to bash the peppercorns and cardamom pods. Add the spices to a tea ball or cheese cloth bundle and add to the pot with the plums. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Measure 1/4 of sugar from the 4 1/2 cups sugar and place in a small bowl. Stir the pectin powder into the 1/4 cup sugar. When fruit is boiling, stir in the sugar and pectin mixture. Return to a boil then add the remaining sugar. Stir until dissolved. Bring to a full rolling boil that can't be stirred down. Boil for one minute. Remove from heat. Remove tea ball. (Or, in my case, the contents!) Carefully ladle the jam into prepared jars, wipe the rim, top with lid and ring and finger tighten. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Makes 8 to 9 half-pint jars, plus a little extra.
Almond Jam Tart
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 8 oz can almond paste
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup tart jam, such as the plum jam above
1/4 cup sliced, toasted almonds
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly flour a clean surface and roll out the puff pastry. Carefully lift over the rolling pin and place on the parchment paper lined pan. Set aside.
Crumble the almond paste into the bowl of a mixer. Add the eggs and sour cream. Beat with the whisk attachment until the mixture is pretty smooth. Some little lumps are ok. Spread the almond mixture on the pastry dough, leaving a 1 inch border. Stir and dollop the jam on the pastry. Do not blend in, but leave distinct areas of jam.
Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the sliced toasted almonds in the last 5 minutes. Allow to cool a bit before slicing.