Science in the Morning

October 5, 2008

I cannot say that the past month and a half has been among my most productive, but it is a fact I am used to realising around this time of year. When the days grow shorter and the year slowly approaches its end, I simply do not feel like creating, be it either pictures of writings. My muses leave me on each cloudy day, but I cannot blame them; I wish I could do the same.

Most of this morning I have spent lost in the world of a book. Had it been a novel, I assume I would have been excused, but it was no novel, no fictional work of written art. Had it been university course literature I would have been worthy of an accolade for my motivation to succeed, but neither was it that kind of book. No, as usual, I was lost to the realm of science; a field wholly unrelated to my current studies, a field taunting me with all the achievements it requires before one is deemed worthy of entering its lines.

Outside the winds are howling, determined to scar an aging land more than what is called for. The trees may be on fire, there is no doubt, but neither rain nor wind can extinguish them. These blazing fires will cease when their time has come, and then the wind will strip the last colourful leaves of the dark tress’ branches. Not before.

The rain which falls is cold and heavy, and the farther the distance from where I gaze the softer it appears to be. Across the immediate lands within my view the rain has formed a soft mist, a whisper of summer’s rain. It veils the landscapes while they await the arrival of winter, a month and a half from now, give or take.

Sheltered from the outdoors’ cold I sat, my foot moving like the tail of a delighted dog. Surely, I had much better—more productive—tasks to tend to, but for the moment I was content with paying them not a single thought. Neither the weather nor the season matters to me whenever scientific writings are near. In a season of no sunshine, in a season of rain and howling winds, science is my sunshine, much like it should be the inspiration of the whole world.

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August is drawing near its end and September is preading its cloaks across the lands. A scent of autumn rain and falling leaves is heavy in the air, the mist thick between the stem of far away trees in the early morning. The eight month has always been considered as one of summer, but this year begs to differ.

Though the summer skies have been clouded over and grey has taken the place of blazing blue, its end is one of abundance. The treasuries of nature are well-stocked; the rubies of the apple trees are shimmering in between matte leaves, the amethyst plums are blushing with a faint haze, and the fruit-bearing bushes have all adorned themselves with the most elaborate riches they could aquire. The garnet of the mountain ashes are the first of fall’s colours to appear, the deep forests mines where the gold of chanterelles is to be retrieved. – It is almost as if nature is silently apologising for the summer sun’s persistant absence.

Aquarel Plums

Aquarel Plums

For the first time the many fruit trees of the garden show their true potential, and I am determined to allow little to go to waste. With many future delicacies in mind I have spent a couple of hours in the garden, picking the sweet plums kindly offered to me by branches struggling not to break below the weight of their riches.

A Quartet of Sweet Plums

When a soft rain started to fall, I retreated inside, already having collected more than enough. Two large bowls were filled to the brim with juicy fruits, gathered only from the lowest branches which were the easiest to reach. Their quantity amounted to near 3 kilograms (7.5 pounds) and though it was tempting to save them in their untreated state, I knew it never would be possible as the even the finest of silever tarnishes with time.

Therefore I decided to turn them into the kind of preserve my family became very fond of the last time – many years ago – nature was as generous to us. As the recipe is breathtakingly simple and the resulting jam is most pleasing to one’s senses, I have decided to share it with all who may be interested.

Gifts Supplied by a Generous Garden

Gifts Supplied by a Generous Garden

The Recipe:

This preserve is delicious either frozen or hot, and especially so together with vanilla ice-cream. It may, however, be used together with all dishes whose flavour is enhanced by jam’s sweet savour; such as with pancakes, on toast, on and in pie, and in muffins – only to mention a few examples where this versatile jam may be put to good use.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes to 1 hour.
Cooking Time: 2 hours
Ingredients: 3 kg (7.5 pounds) plums (~500 cherry-sized plums) and 2 kg (5 pounds) ordinary, white sugar.

Preparations:

  • If you have picked the plums yourself, you may wish to pick-over clean them: remove leaves, stems and damaged parts, as well as washing them with clean water.
  • If you have purchased the plums, be sure to wash them with clean water to remove potentially present pesticides, pollutants and pathogens.
  • Make sure to count the plums, as it will make your job removing the stones much easier later on.
  • Add the plums to a large saucepan (not aluminium) and make sure the rim is not reached as it means the jam is to boil over – and that will be insanely sticky.
  • Add the sugar.
  • Add just a little bit of water (one cup will be too much) in a circling motion above the pan to make sure it is well-distributed.
  • Allow the pan to stand for 10-15 minutes to make sure the water (both from the plums and added) settles at the bottom.
Sweet Plums and Sugar

Sweet Plums and Sugar

Cooking:

  • Heat the plum and sugar-mixture on medium heat while ocassionally stirring thoroughout the whole process to keep the heat evenly distibuted, while making sure that it does not boil over.
The Heat Works Wonders

The Heat Works Wonders

  • Once the plums and sugar have been turned into something resembling jam you will notice that a foam is collecting on the surface. Remove it as it contains wax from the plums’ skin and pollutants. (You may need to repeat this a few times before the surface is completely clean.)
The soon-to-be jam is boiling, the plums are cooking, and foam is collecting on the surface.

The soon-to-be jam is boiling, the plums are cooking, and foam is collecting on the surface.

  • When the foam has been completely removed, it is the start of the fun part!- collecting the stones. This is when you appreciate having taken the time to count the plums before cooking them. Allow the jam to simmer while you collect the stones as it will help the jam to attain the right consistency once cool (the longer it boils the thicker will it be). But be sure not to burn yourself as it is very hot even when simmering.
Stone-Riddled Jam

Stone-Riddled Jam

  • Once the last stone has been collected and you have sighed in relief having found it, you may lower the heat and boil a few jars to sterilise them.
  • While the jars are boiling, taste the jam with a clean spoon! Sometimes it may be a little bit sour depending on the sweetness of the plums. If it needs more sugar, add some and then up the heat a little more and stir until the sugar has diffused into the jam. And if the jam is very viscous you may want to allow it to boil for a few more minutes, allowing the excess water to evaporate.
  • Once the jars have boiled for a few minutes, remove them carefully from the water – while not burning yourself – then pour the jam into them and seal immediatly afterwards. (If you have the opportunity to seal them with wax it is preferable, but it will work well without it.)
  • When the jars have cooled down you may put them into the freezer if you are not immediately going to use the jam. The preserve will remain just as delicious, in addition to staying that way for longer.
  • Enjoy!
Blushing Plum-Jam Enjoyed on Toast with Tea and Fruit

Blushing Plum-Jam Enjoyed on Toast with Tea and Fruit