Plums!

Growing up I’d eat plums, but I wasn’t the biggest fan of them. The skin was always a bit bitter, the insides were a bit sour and they had a strange film on them (this was the 1980s before organic produce was in every grocery store). As I got older and tasted plum wine for the first time, I decided to give plums another try.

plums for canning

Every June, our plum trees burst with plums. Well, I should back up. The first year we were in our home, we picked about 10 pounds of plums from one tree alone (as in, it was the only tree that produced fruit). Our second tree produced 3 plums—not 3 pounds of plums; just 3 plums. We gave both trees a massive pruning at the end of the season and were rewarded with about 30 pounds of plums last year. This year, we’ve picked a whopping 64 pounds of plums and there’s still more on the tree!

Last year, we made plum wine and plum cider, as well as plum butter. This year, I made plum jam and we’re making plum wine. Since it was going to be a few days until we were going to make the plum wine, I took the plums that were very ripe or overripe and turned them into a plum jam.

 

I used this jam recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, which uses Granny Smith apples and lemon in lieu of packaged pectin. I’ve found using Granny Smiths is a lot more forgiving than using packaged pectin, as you don’t have to keep your eyes on it all the time while stirring. You still have to stir with apples, but if you have to turn the stove down and deal with a crying baby or tend to a toddler, it’s not a big deal.

Gimme Some More…Jam

They were reddish about a month ago, when we should have picked them.

They were reddish about a month ago, when we should have picked them.

Just when I thought I was done making jam for the season, we discovered blackberries and a cherry tree on our property. I had noticed the fruit on the cherry tree about a month ago when we were clearing wood from the front of the yard. We wondered if the fruit was edible, but didn’t want to take any chances. When our friends visited us this weekend, they identified it immediately and ate a few of the cherries. When they didn’t die or tax our sewer with explosive diarrhea, we picked the rest of the fruit and started drying and canning it.

We’ve since identified the trees as Rainier cherry trees. Our trees are older and well established, and the fruit is sweet. Apparently Rainier cherries are the sweetest of the cherry varieties, which is great because I used less sugar in the jam recipes, saving money and my pancreas.
The thorny bushes around the perimeter of our property are blackberries—rich, delicious blackberries. Although the berries are a pain—literally—to pick due to all of the thorns, the bushes produce a shit-ton of berries. We spent 20 minutes picking the berries within arms-reach and came out with a huge basket of berries. And there’s more where that came from.

Cherry Jam on the stove. I used apples in place of the powdered fruit pectin.

Cherry Jam on the stove. I used apples in place of the powdered fruit pectin.

Making blackberry jam. Jam, blackberries, jam!

Making blackberry jam. Jam, blackberries, jam!

 

I had thought they were wild roses, and thought it was odd that they never produced flowers. Now I’m wondering how many of the prickly vines that I’ve ripped out around the property have been roses and which have been blackberries.

 

 

 

4 Things to Do When You Have a Bounty of Fruit

1. Dry them. Our food dehydrator has gotten a workout over the past few days as we’ve been drying about 10 pounds of cherries. (If you’re a fan of sour candy, drying cherries is for you.) We’ve dried everything from apples to kale in the dehydrator. Drying time varies by fruit—more watery fruits may take longer—but the result is delicious. Although dried fruit will last a fair bit of time, it will probably be eaten within a week.

2. Jam them. Jam is the easiest thing to do with fruit. Find a great recipe either online or in a cookbook, but don’t be afraid to tweak the recipe a bit. I love adding cinnamon to everything—it gives the recipe a spicy little kick. While some things in jam recipes should remain balanced (e.g., the fruit, sugar and pectin proportions), experiment with adding spices that you think will add to the finished product.

3. Freeze them. While I haven’t done it yet, freezing excess fruit is a great way to have fresh fruit year-round. This is a neat guide to help you if you want to find out more. http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/uga/uga_freeze_fruit.pdf

4. Give them away. Many food banks will accept excess fruit from private citizens. While sometimes they’ll send out gleaners to take the fruit off of your hands, other places may allow you to drop it off at their facilities. Check with the food bank near you to learn more.

jams august

Jam Jam Jammy Jam

Last week it rained for two full days, much to the relief of my garden and trees. It’s been so dry here recently, and although we’re in slightly better shape than most parts of California, it has been one dry year. As a result of this liquid boost, the snap peas and sunflowers are climbing and the next round of lettuce seeds has broken the surface.

Plums!

Plums!

But, even better are the plums that are ripe and ready to pick from the two trees on our property. The seller had told us about these trees when we were looking at the house, but as of a few weeks ago, we only saw a few green plums. This weekend, when I was moving the lawn, I looked up and saw tons of red and pink plums in the trees. I picked as many as I could from my tippy toes and plan to go back with a ladder in the next few days to get more to make plum jam.

The recipe I found in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preservation calls for plums, 5 tart apples, a lemon, water and sugar. Apparently the apples have natural pectin in them that eliminates the need to buy a separate fruit pectin. Of all the jam recipes I found, this seems like the least finicky one.

Now, if only the apples were ready so that I could make jam using only ingredients found on our property…