Plum jam and Mario Batali’s Eataly

I’m at it again. The jam thing. I mean, the same jam thing all over again. Because I just returned from New York City and realized anew that I shall never—never say never—but realistically? I shall never live in a spacious, gorgeous loft in Tribeca and shop at Mario Batali’s and Joe Bastianich's new Eataly and go home to cook fabulous meals in my spacious, gorgeous loft. 

Anyway, it’s a schlep there from Tribeca  (Eataly is at 5th Avenue and 23rd Street) and I couldn’t just pop around the corner for a nice piece of fish for dinner, which is the whole point of living in a spacious, gorgeous loft in Tribeca. Did I mention that this is a fantasy that occurs to me regularly, whenever I visit NYC?

To comfort myself, I am making jam again. Because jam says home is where the heart is. Jam says you can be rich in so many different ways. When you sit down to a cappuccino that you make in your cute Illy coffee machine and serve yourself a slice of toast from a loaf of homemade bread topped with a schmear of homemade jam, now that’s living. True, you could enjoy all that in your spacious loft, but lacking such a convenience (think of the upkeep) you can make do in your own home sweet home, wherever that might be. All this, while you are still in your pajamas! Take that, NYC!

Molto Mario’s molto food emporium:

admittedly after seeing it, I was a teensy bit wistful, wishing I lived in Chelsea at least, so I could walk there.

Molto indeed. 50, 000 square feet: fresh pasta, pizza, mozzarella made on-site, a crudo bar, shelves and shelves, a veritable Aladdin’s cave of dried pasta and imported Italian canned tomatoes, anchovies, sauces, jams, honey, olive oil, fresh meat, chicken, fish and other raw ingredients to squirrel back to the loft after you’ve shopped and had your fill of gelato and caffe. Or you could just eat at one of the restaurants there and skip the cooking.

College Boy was busy with orientation. I made my pilgrimage without him, but was eager to share my new find later with these pictures, taken in the low-light crush of the curious mobs on day three of the opening. One glance at the photos and he snorted derisively at the pretentiousness of the signs written in Italian. Ha! It is always refreshing to have a 20-year-old about you.

Back home, in the midst of my post-New-York-fantasy letdown, I am at the stove with plums. Making jam is grounding in a way that sets things in their proper perspective.

I spotted some beautiful rosy plums in the market the other day to use for my continuing jam project.  I liked the color and thought it would make a jewel of a jam. When I got them home and took a bite, I was pretty bummed. They were disappointingly bland. I didn’t want to waste them, so I figured I’d try to salvage them with some lemon juice. It worked.  Lemon is a great rescuer and it did not fail me. The jam has a unique, you’ll-never-find-this-in-a-shop sophistication; more than adequate for gift giving if there is any left by December.

(NOTE:You will find a detailed jam making tutorial here)

Plum Lemon Jam Recipe (Makes 7 to 8 8-ounce jars)

5 pounds plums, pitted and cut in 3/4-inch pieces

5 cups sugar

Zest and juice of 2 lemons

1. Combine the plums, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in a large heavy-bottomed pot. A wide pot with a capacity of at least 6 quarts is best. Preserves need room to bubble up as they boil, so the pot should not be full to the brim. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

2. Raise the heat to medium-high and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the syrup deepens in color and the plums begin to look translucent. They will need more stirring at the end of cooking, because they become heavily saturated with syrup and sink to the bottom of the pan. This can take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes, so be patient.

3. When the syrup, which is initially quite thin and runny, begins to thicken, put two or three small saucers in the freezer. Start testing the preserves for the jellying point. Dip a large spoon into the pot. Hold it over the pot so that the bowl of the spoon is facing you and let the preserves fall back into the pot. Notice how the syrup falls off the spoon. As it approaches the jellying point, two distinct drops hang onto the rim of the spoon thickly.

4. Spoon a small puddle of syrup onto a cold saucer from the freezer. Put it back in the freezer for about a minute and test it by drawing your finger across the middle to form a channel. If the surface of the jam wrinkles and the channel does not close up immediately, your jam is ready.

5. Ladle the hot jam into clean, warm jars, leaving a 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe the rim of each jar with a wet paper towel and place the lid on top. Screw on the band, but don’t screw it on too tight. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Find directions for processing in a boiling water bath here.

6. The preserves will keep for up to one year. If you want to skip the boiling water bath, ladle the hot jam into clean jars and store in the refrigerator where they will keep for up to three months.