Native plum trees, the kind with the tangy fruit about the size of the top joint of your thumb, surround two sides of my back yard. The ones on the short side are on our property, but the ones on the long side are on the neighbor’s. Roughly 20 trees, all told. And in a couple of weeks, they’re all going to come ripe. We’ve already got fruit falling, but soon it will be lots of squishy fruit.
I make some jam with it, which is tasty but the process of removing the pits is incredibly laborious. I cook it down and then use a food mill, picking out all the pits with a spoon as they start clogging the mill. I’ve tried using a cherry pitter, as the plums are about the same size as a large cherry, but the stones are a bit bigger than cherry stones and it ends up a frustrating, even more laborious mess. And frankly, we just don’t eat enough jam to warrant that amount of work. I’ve also made BBQ sauce and Asian-inspired plum sauce, but same issue—not enough use for the amount of labor it costs.
My goals for this:
* low labor investment
* doesn’t involve brewing alcohol, as I’ve had some spectacular failures in this arena and I’ve promised the spousal unit I will not be doing that again
* creates a usable product, though it doesn’t necessarily have to be food
* low sugar, if it is food/drink
Ideas? I did check out a (previous thread But those mostly centered on umeboshi and similar products, but the labor for the sheer volume we are talking about here is untenable.
Wild plum butter is my favorite. You can adjust the sugar anyway you want. I prefer slightly tart. No pectin needed. Just cook until it is as thick as you like. I think an old school colander might work better for pits that size. Cook until soft first.
I take the pits, put them in damp vermiculite in a barely opened Ziploc bag, and put them in the fridge all winter. In spring, I plant the ones that start sprout into root pouches for use in my land, or to sell. I have half a dozen that I started this spring, but I'm keeping these to add to my hedge row. This year I'll put a couple hundred pits away. My germination is only about 25 percent.
make jelly, juice, syrup, squash, wine, vinegar... they all start the same way
Take the plums and boil them whole until they mush, then tip the whole lot into a colander this will sieve out the stones and most of the skin, take the resulting liquid and put it through a sieve, that will get the last bits of skin/flesh. If you want your jelly/juice/wine clear you'll need to put this liquid through a jelly bag, but you don't need to do that if you don't mind a bit of cloudyness.
Now you have cooked plum juice and you can do what you want with it, boil hard with sugar to make jelly (it won't need added pectin) bring to the boil with sugar/citric acid to make squash or syrup, adjust the sugar and acid to get the taste you want. and secretly in a corner ferment it to make wine/vinegar :p
I like the idea of pushing the mush through a colander! (It will still be fussy but less so.)
Juicing it, either through a traditional press or a steam juicer, could give you something to work with. Then feel no guilt in composting the pits and mush. (You may end up with more wild plums sprouting up!)
I have a lot of rhubarb and have been making this simple syrup: http://nwedible.com/the-rhubarb-75/ Nice in sparkling water, far too nice with gin. In the case of rhubarb you also get a sweet mush that is pleasant on toast instead of jam, but again composting the mush is fine too.
Some interesting ideas here. I’m thinking the steam juicer and whole brined options might fit with the low labor aspect I’m looking for. (I make jam/plum butter with these about every two years because we just don’t use it fast enough; this is a no-jam year.) I hate seeing all this free fruit That we do absolutely nothing to maintain go to waste, so definitely keep those ideas coming!
We used to go through the time consuming process of pitting plums until we went to a big cookout where the dessert was sand plum cobbler with a scoop of home made ice cream on top. (Amazing!) We were warned pits have not been removed. It was no problem. We have not removed pits in plums since, just bag them up and put them in the freezer. It takes all the work out of it and makes it almost enjoyable to harvest them.
We have a single plum tree and it makes plenty of fruit all on its own!
I do wish I had s steam juicer, but drying them into prunes could work as well.
I've noticed that ripe plumbs are almost wine already, so I'm wondering if you could mix them with apple cider vinegar and go quickly from plum wine to plum vinegar?
We might make some plumb Brown Betty for the gluten intolerant customers at the farmers market.
Our ripe plums are very soft, I wonder if we could use almost ripe plums for easy of handling and add sugar to them if needed.
I would definitely make vinegar. I use those giant picke jars. Fill them with fruit, cover with water and 1 Tbsp. sugar per cup. Cover with coffee filter or cloth. Stir daily till I forget and it forms a mother. Super easy.
You could collect the fruit and do a sale, barter or giveaway. Maybe post on Craigslist, FreeCycle or whatever, put a "U-Pick" sign up. At least then it gets used! And those people can practice finding uses for an abundance they wouldn't have otherwise. You can share recipes!
Shawn Foster wrote:If you use them to make umeboshi, which is traditionally made with unripe plums, that would work. Otherwise, definitely not recommended. They are quite tart even when fully ripe!
I love umeboshi so much. I think imma get salt poisoning from eating too many. In a video I watched they waited until the plums started to ripen slightly to process them, rather than doing it when they were totally green. They just kept the green ones in a paper bag until they got a tinge of color.
You can see with only one eye open, but you'll probably run into things and stub your toe. The big picture matters.
Other experiments I’ve tried with these included not pitting them, such as whole pickled plums (with chai spices, which was tasty) and straight-up canning them with a very light syrup. They were ok, but the very high pit-to-flesh ratio of them makes for effortful eating. I’m lazy and don’t like my eating to involve that much work. 🙂 I was the only one who ate these.
I will definitely be sharing the excess with the community, Bihai. Love the idea of including recipes! These will probably be my first item on the planned Free Food stand by the road this year.
Wild plums tend to be clingstone, which is why the pits are harder to remove. I sometimes treat them like a very tiny mango, and just slice as much of the fruit off as I can in a single cut per side, then not worry about the rest. Or, use the pit with the remaining flesh still clinging to it, and float it in a drink for a little plum flavor.
But I would think that the best return-on-labor ratio would be achieved through the steam juicer.
For what to do with them, I like pies and cobblers. Although wines and vinegars are a close second. Most of the fruit I can is in a light syrup, so I can make it into pie filling easily.
Pretty excited—I found a steam canner on Marketplace for about a third of what they go for new. Made the first batch of juice tonight and it’s so gorgeous! It’s a little flat tasting, but it’ll work beautifully as a pectin in with other fruit or concentrated down to a syrup and mixed with a bit of lime. And it was so easy! Hooray!
Just put the cards in their christmas stocking and PRESTO! They get it now! It's like you're the harry potter of permaculture. richsoil.com/cards