This lucky girl got to pick mirabelle plums on the border between France and Germany! We shook the trees until until it hailed mirabelles onto our blankets, and then we scooped up handfuls of the tiny, yellow plums into our baskets. I’ve never had the pleasure of picking fruit in such an idyllic setting which makes it all the more special.
The rolling fields of the Lorraine region, where these mirabelles grow, provide the ideal climate for this relatively rare type of plum. They’re tiny little things, just a tad bigger than a cherry, yellow and speckled with ‘rosy cheeks’ when perfectly ripe.
Mirabelles are (unfortunately) quite difficult to find in US - something about protected origin designation laws, meaning they can only be imported directly from the Lorraine region in France. Apparently there’s a mirabelle orchard somewhere north of San Francisco. So Northern California peeps - keep your eyes peeled at those farmers’ markets! I think the experts would argue that there is no substitute for a mirabelle, and those of us who just want to make a marmalade might agree that any yellow plum will do at a pinch.
Skipping back to the kitchen with my basket hooked on my arm, feeling rosy-cheeked myself like a true country gal, I decided to make marmalade with this harvest. I added a bit of orange zest because I love to layer flavors and I thought they’d made an attractive couple. I’m a novice jam/ marmalade (what’s the difference? anyone?!) maker, but it’s so satisfying to work with the fruit you picked, and to transform it into something so delicious, which you can put in jars and share with friends and family.
Plum season is coming to an end but grab what you can, freeze them (take the stones out first!), and save for a rainy autumn day to make some treats!
Ingredients for 4 - 6oz. jars
approx. 2.2 lbs (1 kg) mirabelle plums, pitted and halved
1-1/3 cup (250g) granulated sugar (or gelling sugar/jam sugar which contains pectin for a firmer set)
juice of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1 organic orange
Place the pitted mirabelles, sugar and lemon juice in a large pot. Stir to combine and slowly bring to a soft boil. Boil for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.
Next you need to check if the marmalade has set. To do this, you can do one of two things:
Use a candy thermometer to test the temperature, or do the 'wrinkle test'.
If you're checking the temperature, clip the thermometer to the side of the pan and check the temperature as you're heating the mixture. The setting point for jam is 220F (105C), once it reaches this temperature, you can be sure that it's done.
If you don’t have a thermometer, you can do a ‘wrinkle test’. Whilst your marmalade is cooking, place a small plate in the freezer. When the marmalade has boiled, take the pan off the heat and spoon a little dollop onto the cold plate. Return it to the freezer for 2 minutes, then remove the plate and push the dollop of marmalade with your finger. If the surface wrinkles then it is good to go. If it is still quite runny, put the pan back on the heat and boil for another 3 to 5 minutes before testing again.
When you’re sure that the jam has reached setting point, remove it from the heat and add the orange zest. Stir through.
Spoon the marmalade into four sterilised jars (for instructions on how to sterilise jars, please see the notes below) about 1/4-inch (1/2 cm) from the top. Take care not to get any of the marmalade on the rim of the jars, this could ruin all your sterilising efforts!
Screw the lids on tightly whilst still hot, this will help create a vacuum, and allow to cool completely at room temperature.
Be sure to label them, and tie a bow around the lid, or top with a bit of fabric before gifting. These should keep well, stored in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months.
To sterilize jars:
Preheat oven to 375F (180C).
Wash jars and lids in hot soapy water, but don’t dry them. Place upside down on a roasting tray whilst still wet.
‘Bake’ the tray of jars and lids in a preheated oven at 375F (180C) for about 15 mins.
Carefully spoon the hot preserves into the hot jars.