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Preserved: Plum Conserve

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Have you ever had jam with nuts in it before? Technically, they're called conserves, and they often involve dried fruit too. This version is bursting with juicy, ripe plums, sweet golden raisins, and crunchy walnuts. Because of the play of textures and flavors, conserves are especially good over ice cream or stirred into yogurt. You can also serve them as a sweet accompaniment to grilled meats.

I went to the farmers' market last weekend with a shopping list and a plan, neither of which involved plums. But there they were: heaped into piles, fat and purple-black, like uncut gemstones. I couldn't resist. Back at home, I decided to use my bounty to make plum conserve. I consulted several recipes before coming up with this variation, which is loosely adapted from Elise Bauer over at Simply Recipes.

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When making jam (or conserve) without added pectin, there are several things you can do to ensure a good set. I like to clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot. When the simmering jam hits 220°F I know it will gel. For this recipe that will take about 45 minutes. Be patient and stir often. If you want to double check (I always do), put a small plate in the freezer. When the jam reaches 220°F, spoon a little bit onto the plate and return it to the freezer for one minute. Drag your fingertip through the jam and tilt the plate from side to side. If the jam stays put and doesn't run, you're good to go. If not, keep simmering and testing.

I've made a lot of preserves at this point, and I have to say, this is one of my favorites. Not only is the color a downright gorgeous shade of dark ruby red, the flavor is complex and nuanced. First and foremost you get the bright, fresh plums; followed by citrusy hints of orange and lemon; and finally the spicy cinnamon and nutty walnuts. This recipe makes about seven half-pints. If you can them in a hot water bath they'll last for about a year on the shelf. Otherwise stash them in the fridge for up to three months.

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Plum Conserve »

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