A rich, sweet, juicy, tender ripe plum is an amazing experience. You may remember the William Carlos Williams poem
This is Just to Say
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
-William Carlos Williams
Well, I guess he isn’t too descriptive about the actual plum, beyond cold and sweet, but for me it connects the flavor and texture of a plum with the pleasure of a poem- classic imagist. If you follow my blog, you know how much work I do to get my Methley plum tree to produce usable fruit in a region that is very bug- and fungal pathogen- friendly. This is a classic gardener thing- the harder it is to get something to grow, the more you want it. Methley is a Satsuma type Japanese plum. Satsuma apparently means “cherry,” and the smallish purple- red plums do have the cherry look. The skins are very tender and the juice is delicious and very red.
At this writing I do have a lot of fruit, rapidly perishing from Japanese beetle damage, rain splitting, and brown rot. Nonetheless I did get a few gallons preserved today. I made plum jam. plum juice, plum ice cream, and plums in syrup. Easy. This is how you do it:
Not too sweet Plum Jam:
First, you will need a coarse colander, mixing bowl, and a wooden spoon. The coarse colander makes your job so easy.
You will also need clean jars for the jam and clean bottles for the juice. I usually keep mine in the boiling hot attic in bags so they are clean. If I weren’t sure I would run them through the dishwasher. Put the lids in a pot and boil them 15 minutes. Mind they don’t boil dry. Make sure you have tongs to hand to get them out.
Pick plums, throwing away rotten ones. If there are little rotten spots or bug chomps, remember, you are going to wash and boil these, so it’s ok to rub away rot and bug chomps in water and use. The plum flesh is so soft that you can rub away anything gross with your thumb in the water. I spray with Surround clay emulsion, which is completely ok to eat but I wash it off anyway. Drain and fill a stockpot with them. You can put in a little water in if you like to prevent sticking but I don’t. The plums will cover with condensation and then dissolve into juicy red loveliness in minutes once you turn on the burner.
Plum Juice: In about 15 minutes you should see the plums sitting in red juice, skins peeled off and yellowish flesh tender. You can go longer- it will only make your plums go through the colander faster. We aren’t trying to preserve texture here. Put your colander in a big mixing bowl and carefully dump the contents of the stockpot into it. Once the juice has drained, put the colander on top of the stockpot while you pour the hot juice carefully into clean bottles. Get the tops out of the boiled water and cap them. Set them to cool. You could sweeten the juice if you like first. We mix it with water or sparkling water unsweetened for us, sweetened with honey for kids. It’s also wonderful in a wine cooler mix. A drop of lemon juice brightens it- selzter turns it dull- remember acid/base indicators in high school chemistry?
Plum Jam: Once your juice is bottled, return the colander to the mixing bowl and stir the plums through it. Stir until the pits click in the colander. The longer you stir, the thicker your puree will be and the easier it will be to make a thick jam. Discard the pits. Put the puree in a large pot so you can stir it and cook it down just a little;5 minutes boil Sweeten to taste. Honey is great, but sugar doesn’t interfere with the plum taste. You can use anything, though. The jam is thick enough that you won’t need it to jell. I use a cup of sugar to 4-5 c. pulp and boil it another 5 minutes. I’m sure you can use Stevia. I use a funnel to put it in the jars so I won’t have to wipe the rims. If you don’t wipe the rims and you have food on them you can’t get a good seal. Put the lids on and tighten.
If you can comfortably and safely do so, invert them for 7 seconds, then quickly unscrew the tops for a fraction of an instant, then tighten again quickly. Don’t burn yourself. This scalds the lids and causes a quick burst of hot air to force its way out, sealing the jar. I have often done no more than this for jams and jellies, skipping the canning step altogether. Nobody recommends this anymore, so I won’t either. Canning is more reliable and it’s not too hard. My grandmother used paraffin- she would pour a 1/4 inch layer of melted wax on the surface of the jam. I remember saving the discs for remelting the next year- yes, I’m sick, I know. Folks used to seal preserves with brown paper soaked in whiskey….
Processing: I use an open hot water bath for acid or sugary things like jams, jellies, preserves, apple sauce, tomatoes, and pickles. I really only get out the pressure canner for low acid foods like beans, meats, and mushrooms. Plum products are acid so the official word is 30 minutes boiling. With jams and jellies which are also preserved with sugar and really don’t need processing at all, 15 minutes. We really are only looking to heat up the airspace and exhaust some air so that we will have a good seal. If you have a clean jar with no nicks on the rim, a good lid, and hot, sterile contents, and you seal it well, it will keep as long as you can conceivably want it to. I shouldn’t say this, but I have eaten my grandmother’s preserves 15 years old. Don’t try that at home, kids. Of course we are talking about stuff with maximum sugar and/or rum content…..
Plum Ice Cream: I have an ice cream maker that is the easiest thing- no salt or ice. It has a gel canister that is sealed. I leave it in the freezer all the time and just take it out to make ice cream. They ave a recipe book but you can seriously just toss whatever you want in there and it will turn into ice cream or sorbet. Since I make my own yoghurt, this works easily. I just put 2 cups of yoghurt, 2 cups of plum pulp, and honey to taste and switch the thing on. This makes a very tart, plummy ice cream with a wonderful pink color. It is pretty tart but you can add more sweetener during the process since the top is open.
Plum Juice: You will need clean mason jars, lids and rings. Select perfect plums as you work and fit them tightly into the jars. Make a 1/1 sugar syrup, or lighter if you want, bring it to a boil, fill the jars with it, seal and process. A syrup of half honey, half water is wonderful, and lighter than a sugar syrup. I label it as such if I had honey to spare, because it is really special. The fruit skins color the syrup a lovely red. I like to put one in the window. When you open these, you will have a lot of syrup. The fruit rises in it. Spoon out the fruit with some of the syrup and eat with cream or vanilla pudding…..save the rest of syrup to mix with water for a delicious juice drink, or with wine…..mmm.
I have made pickled plums with a sweet vinegar syrup and spices, the way you make pickled peaches, but after a while I thought the spice overwhelmed the plums. On the whole it was a bit medicinal. I prefer honey syrup. The delicate flavors are amazing. Poetical.