Winter is an etching,
spring a watercolor,
summer an oil painting
and autumn a mosaic of them all.
- Stanley Horowitz
You’d be mad to let the luscious flavors of Autumn pass you by. Here in North Carolina we’re seeing the final surge of stone fruits at delightfully low prices. Not to worry if this leads to baskets full of fruit soon to deteriorate. Quick canning means you can enjoy what’s best now during the cooler months ahead.
When it comes to preserves, jams, jellies, I’m satisfied with no more ingredients than fruit, a whisper of sugar, and enough acidity to heighten the fruit’s natural essence. Clean, completely undisguised, concentrated flavors. In years past I’ve made labor-intensive marmalade with fresh southern citrus, multiple small batches of five-minute strawberry jam, and a two plum vanilla bean preserve that came together in a time somewhere between the previous two.
Most recently I saved a sackful of overly ripe damson plums from a terrible fate. And got them drunk instead. The Autumn nights drawing in, a person’s thoughts turn to comforting food and wine. At least this person’s thoughts do, and my seasonal pick to match these preserves was Cabernet Franc. Its rich, earthy and fruity notes echo those of the plums–a charming combination.
The method is quick and appealingly practical. The finished crimson product, silky and sumptuously delicious. No way you’d guess it took mere minutes.
Happy preserving, happy Autumn!
Damson Cabernet Stove-Top Preserves [makes 2 large or 3 small jars]
Plums can vary widely in sweetness. If your fruit is on the sweeter side, and/or you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, stick with 1 cu sugar. If the sweetness is more muted, and/or you’re a sugaraholic, go for the full 1 1/2 cups.
2/3 lb damson plums, washed, de-stemmed and quartered (stones removed)
1 to 1 1/2 c light brown or demerara sugar, to taste
1/4 c water, plus more if needed
2 T good-quality Cabernet Franc
Put the fruit and water into a small, heavy-bottomed pot or saucepan, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even cooking. Remove pot from the heat and let cool until the fruit is no longer bubbling.
Stir the sugar into the fruit and bring to a sputtering boil over medium to medium-high heat. (Clear a wide radius from around the pot, unless decorating with purple splatters is your new project.) When a full boil is reached, lower the heat to a simmer until thick and spoonable, about 30 minutes. Remove pot from the heat once more and stir in the Cabernet; let cool 15 minutes.
Serve immediately, or ladle the preserves to sterilized jars and leave open to cool. Keeps up to two weeks tightly sealed in the refrigerator; freeze for longer keeping.
Adapted very loosely from Mostly Eating