Wild plums

I intend to include pictures in some of these entries, but the camera seems to have disappeared.

The family (Husband, Small Boy and I) went out yesterday on a plum-picking expedition. We found a lonesome tree last year that was laden with dark purple plums that made delicious jam, and we’d been watching it all summer to catch the plums when they were perfectly ripe. Unfortunately, that was last weekend when we were on holiday. Yesterday we found a lot of rotting plums on the ground (they fall off almost as soon as they’re ripe, or if there’s any kind of wind), but with determination (and ignoring Small Boy’s increasingly agitated cries of ‘Mommy want come out tree!’), I managed to pick 1 ½ carrier bags full. Husband also gathered a small number of tart yellow plums from the tree next door, which I ignored ’cause yellow plums just never look right to me.

We soothed Small Boy with a large handful of plums and put him back in his bicycle trailer, then cycled off home. I was disappointed because I’d hoped for a lot more fruit than we had gathered, but as we were passing a park on the way back through Basingstoke, Husband noticed a stand of plums next to a busy road and suggested we stop. He retrieved a few samples, and I thought they were perfectly nice. I grabbed a bag and headed across the road, while he heaved a sigh and took Small Boy off to the fountains to be entertained.

All together, we gathered 11 pounds of plums (nearly 5 kg) of various types. Since we had so many, I thought I’d experiment. Wild plums differ in quality, so I prepared all of the first lot of plums for jam since I knew they were good for that. Husband likes prunes, so I thought I’d try to make some, along with some fruit leather. I recently invested in a ridiculously expensive 9-tray dehydrator with fruit season in mind, so it was time to try it out.

I pitted a large bowl of the second lot of plums and laid them out on the dehydrator trays, swatting Small Boy away and pointing out our blueberry bush to distract him (an action I would later regret). After preparing the first lot of plums for jam, I took 1 cup of pureed plums and mixed it with 1 cup of cooked pureed apple, then spread it out on the fruit leather sheets that came with the dehydrator.

I popped everything in and left it running overnight. In the morning, the fruit leather was perfect. Tart but sweet, nice and chewy. It’s about the thickness of construction paper, with a rough side and a smooth side from where it lay on the dehydrating sheet. I cut it into thin strips, sealed it in a plastic container and put it away in a dark cupboard.

The ‘prunes’ are tart enough to be inedible – like cranberries with no sugar. It seems you have to start with extremely sweet plums to make prunes. I can cut them up, soak them and put them in muffins, though, so they won’t go to waste. (They’ll come in handy, since Small Boy has eaten most of the blueberries.)

The jam, however, is delicious. The first lot, anyway, which made 8 four-ounce jars. Having cooked and pureed the second lot, I have run out of energy for the evening. It’ll wait until tomorrow.


About emilyallwright

I'm an American living in England with my husband and small child. I'm interested in sustainable living and old-fashioned skills, detective fiction and folk music.
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