|Wild plums gathered on our land.|
Wild plums don't keep very well, which is why you will never see them for sale in the store. If you want to preserve them, you have to process them right away. We usually make jam, and this year I decided to make fruit leather as well. The normal way to extract the pulp and juice is to boil the plums and strain out the pits and skins, but this kills the seeds. I wanted viable seeds to sell in my eBay store, The Happy Rooster, so I pitted them by hand. A messy job!
For fruit leather, I loaded the pitted plums, skins and all, into the food processor, set it on puree, then dried the resulting mess in my food dehydrator (which has special inserts for making leathers. I suppose you could also do it on waxed paper in a low oven. I'm told the Indians used to dry the pitted plums in the sun, and I've heard of people making solar food dryers.) These plums are pretty tart, so we tried both a sweetened and non-sweetened version. Both are delicious!
Getting a clear jelly from these plums is next to impossible, but they make a pretty good jam if you strain out the skins and most of the yellowish pulp. I use a colander for this, since it is too thick to go through cheesecloth. This leaves me with a pink slurry. Following an old traditional recipe, I add one cup of sugar per cup of juice, then boil until it "seals the tines of a fork," or jells when you cool a spoonful. (I suppose there is a proper temperature if you use a candy thermometer, but I've always done it seat-of-the-pants.) I find there is enough pectin in the plums to jell on their own, but if you have some apple juice to add, it makes a nice combination. If for some reason your jelly doesn't jell, you can still use it as a delicious syrup on pancakes or ice cream.
The last product I made is (or soon will be) a gallon of plum wine. I started making my own wines when we moved to rural Minnesota, because the only kosher wine we could find here was Manischewitz grape, which is cheap and sweet for the local winos but not a vintage that I enjoy. Over the years I've experimented with making all kinds of wines, some better than others. Just be sure to use wine yeast, which you can order online, not baking yeast. My last batch of plum wine was pretty good. I'll let you know in a few months how this vintage turns out. L'chaim!
(To add wild plums to your wildlife landscaping, either buy trees from garden catalogues or, if you have the patience to grow trees from seed, you can get seeds from my eBay store, The Happy Rooster while supplies last. This is a native species that grows in zones 3-7.)
|Wild plum blossoms in spring. In addition to fruit, |
these trees form a thorny thicket that birds like to nest in