Visions of plum trees from long, long ago
I remember my grandpa having a plum tree when I was growing up. My grandpa (poppy) was the first gardening mentor in my life. He kept a veggie garden out back where I remember digging my hands into the dirt and pulling worms out, exploring the natural world and learning about where food came from.
Poppy also had an apple tree and a plum tree. For whatever reason I remember the plum tree best, and when poppy died, I wrote a story about him and his garden and his plum tree affectionately titled “The Smell of Dirt.” I always vowed that when I had my own house I would grow a plum tree in honour of him.
Fast forward to today: We finally have a home of our own, but we can’t plant fruit trees here because we have two septic tanks taking up space in the front yard. Oh well. One day we will have our plum tree, I swear.
Luckily I can still get my hands on free plums from around the Valley where we live. Lots of fruit trees with fruit that people that don’t want the fruit around here!
If you like, you can read more about how I get my hands on free organic food (that I don’t grow myself).
Process plums right away for best results
Now, plums need to be processed pretty much right away. They go mushy really quickly. A few years agowe lost pounds of them to fruit flies before we had the chance to process them. If you need to hold onto them for any length of time, make sure they go in the fridge as soon as possible.
When we used to pick plums at our neighbour’s house, they had a variety of clingstone plums that were delicious but a pain in the you-know-what to pit and process, so I needed a recipe that didn’t require me to pit them all, and could allow me to process them quickly before the fruit flies got to them!
The easiest, yummiest way I could think of was to make plum jelly. I’m a fan of using the whole fruit when making preserves, so I’m usually a jam advocate. But jelly (which uses just the juice from the fruit) is a great option if you’re working with a fruit that you don’t want to pit.
It made processing the remaining plums super quick and easy. All I did was throw washed, whole plums into a large, stainless steel pot, add water, cook them down and mash them up into a pulpy liquid. Then I strained the liquid through several layers of cheesecloth to get rich, pure plum juice.
Throw the plum juice back into a clean, stainless steel pot and add a generous helping of sugar and some spices. Bring to a boil, add liquid pectin and pour into jars!
In the end we got about 36 4oz jars of plum jelly. We gave 6 to our neighbours as a thank you and have the rest stored away in the pantry for winter. Well, we may be on our second jar already, but that’s the beauty of preserving at home: You typically get big enough batches to last the year through and maybe even longer, and all for next to no money if you grow your own.
This beautiful, glassy, purple-coloured plum jelly is spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. This gives it a cozy, Christmas-y flavour, which also makes it a perfect Christmas gift! So part of our Christmas “shopping” is already done. Another awesome benefit to home preserving:)
And for me, every time I get a taste of plum jelly, I think of that big ol’ plum tree in my poppy’s backyard. I’m reminded of him, and the smell of dirt that I’ve grown to love so much, and I smile.