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Most things about putting up one's own preserves are great. Among them: having a rad hobby, making things that are delicious, feeling wealthy because you have a stockpile of delicious things, and always having a gift at the ready or a contribution to bring to a party. But home preserving does have its drawbacks. The first among them, to me, is the fact that it requires me to stand, sometimes for prolonged periods of time, next to multiple vessels simmering or boiling away on the stove, and that the biggest time of year for canning also happens to be the hottest.
So it is with a sigh of relief that I greet September. While everyone else is crowing about back to school and the latest pumpkin-flavored-something, I'm quietly re-tying my apron and cramming in as much preserving as possible before late-season berries and stone fruits disappear for the year.
With this recipe, I'm facing down the heat not only from my boiling-water canner, but also my oven, because now that temperatures are cooler I can finally bear it, and, because roasting fruit yields lovely, intensely flavored jam.
Though plums are definitely at home in summertime, they always seem serious somehow to me, perhaps scholarly, and just right for September. Infusing some of the sugar for this recipe with lemon verbena (or rosemary, thyme, or another woody herb) won't add an overpowering flavor, but a subtle sophistication that reminds me of an impossibly chic woman somewhere, or at least what she might eat for breakfast.
Apron and all, I like to think of myself as chic, too, so my favorite way to eat this jam is spread on top of a layer of mascarpone on toast, but it's not so herbaceous that it would turn up its nose in a PB and J or another everyday application.
If you have lemon verbena in your garden or at your farmer's market, consider making extra of this lemon verbena sugar. Like vanilla sugar, it will last for months on the shelf and it adds an elegant note to scones or cookies once September is gone and fall arrives in earnest.
About the Author: Emily Teel is a food writer and recipe developer in Philadelphia, where she's the food columnist for Grid Magazine. She holds a Master of Arts in Food Culture and Communications from the University of Gastronomic Sciences. A 2011 Legacy Award winner with the women's culinary organization Les Dames D'Escoffier International, she's passionate about food. Follow along on Twitter @brotherly_grub and see more of her work at EmilyTeel.com
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