Central valley rains are wreaking havoc on the summer stone fruit crops, already a couple of weeks late to the party thanks to cooler weather. Drenched cherry orchards, many of them looking at one of the best seasons on record, have had to pack up early due to rain split crops. But it hasn't stopped the plums and pluots from sitting pretty. They debuted this past week and are ready to jam. And yes, there's a recipe.

Variety-wise, we've seen Flavarosa, Japanese Ume, and even golden colored Shiro plums, prompting thoughts of homemade plum wine. But popping some of the small and juicy Santa Rosa plums into a pot with sugar, water, and a little lemon juice yields an especially summery jam. Sometimes simple is best, but the Center for Home Food Preservation has a plum conserve recipe that sums up the season we're currently in – the start of summer and the slow fade of cooler weather crops. This recipe pairs plums with oranges and adds a few nuts to boot.

A couple of notes: When canning, only use the best fruits. Select for unbruised, uncut fruit, and in the case of plums, select a few that are just slightly unripe for jam processing. It adds both flavor complexity, texture, and a little more pectin than fully ripened fruit.

Plum-Orange Conserve

Adapted from: National Center for Home Food Preservation

Note: Please read Using Boiling Water Canners before beginning. If this is your first time canning, it is recommended that you read Principles of Home Canning.

Yield: About 8 or 9 half-pint jars

3½ cups finely chopped plums (about 1½ pounds plums)

1 cup finely chopped oranges (1 or 2 oranges)

Peel of ½ an orange

2 cups water

½ cup seedless raisins

1 package powdered pectin

7 cups sugar

½ cup chopped nuts

1. Sterilize canning jars and prepare two-piece canning lids according to manufacturer's directions.

2. To prepare fruit. Sort and wash plums, remove pits. Chops plums fine. Peel and chop oranges. Shred the peel of ½ orange very fine. Combine the orange flesh and peel, add the water, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

3. To make conserve. Measure chopped plums into a kettle. Add orange, raisins, and pectin and stir well. Place on high heat and, stirring constantly, bring quickly to a rolling boil with bubbles over the entire surface. Add sugar, continue stirring, and heat again to full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in nuts. Remove from heat; skim of any surface foam.

4. Fill hot conserve immediately into hot, sterile jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids and screw on to fingertip tightness and you begin to feel resistance- DO NOT over tighten. Process in a Boiling Water Canner for five minutes, 10 if you live between 1000-6000 feet above sea level.

FYI: Boiling water canners are essentially just stock pots. You don't need to go out and buy a special canning pot. Just make sure it's deep enough to cover your jars with water by at least one to two inches and that your jars aren't sitting directly on the bottom of the pot. Use a canning rack or you can make a makeshift one out of canning jar rings by twist-tying them together into a flower pattern, as seen below.

Credit: Nancy Vienneau

Credit: Nancy Vienneau

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