Sunday, July 5 –
Yesterday, while at Cim & Courtney’s near Afton, we picked wild plums. We didn’t make any at our place near Northfield this year, but the Afton bushes were really loaded.
We had a lot of help picking.
It’s not easy to pick these because the bushes grow all together in big groups, not to mention that the bushes are covered with thorns, the air is full of gnats, and since they get ready around the 4th of July, it’s usually very hot. Did I mention the rattlesnakes you have to watch out for that like to curl up in the shade of the plum thicket?
Here’s the plums we ended up with.
When we got home Saturday night, we spread them out in shallow dishes so they wouldn’t crush each other.
We had some special events after church today, so it was almost 4:00 pm before we got home. I decided I’d better go ahead and boil these down before they got mushy. First, I washed them, one bowlful at a time. The leaves rise to the top and can easily be tipped out with the overflow of water.
Once they were all washed, then I put them in pots on the stove, just covering them with fresh water. Because I’m out of propane, I had to stoke up the woodstove. It was a hot day and by the end of it, I had run Nathan out and all the doors were propped open.
When they start to boil, they only need to boil 5-10 minutes.
The juice is bright red at this point.
Next I poured the juice into a collander with a large bowl underneath.
Nathan had to help with this big, heavy pot.
I had a lot of juice when I got done. I had intended to store the juice in the refrigerator and make the jelly on Monday, but I really didn’t have the refrigerator space and since the fire was going and Nathan had brought me a pile of wood, I decided to just get it over with.
I started collecting jars and washing them.
Here I’m boiling caps and lids and starting to bring my juice to a boil. I used some new pectin that I bought through our Azure food co-op. It’s called Pomona’s Universal Pectin. One of the things I had to add to the juice was lemon juice and some calcium water that I mixed up (included in the pectin bag).
The selling point of this pectin is that you have lots of choices for sweetening your jelly. Unlike the store-bought stuff which requires lots and lots of white sugar, you can use honey, stevia, concentrated juice and more. I was out of organic sugar anyway, so I decided to use honey.
The recipe said to add the pectin to the honey and have it ready to add to the boiling juice mixture.
Here I am stirring it in.
After it came to boil again, then I took it off and poured it in the jars. Then the sealed jars went into a boiling water bath for about 12 minutes.
I was very tired after I got it cleaned up, but glad it was done. The jelly was extremely firm which is unusual for jelly made with honey, almost too firm for me. It was also right on the verge of not being sweet enough. Since the sweetener went in at the boiling stage, it was almost too late to add more when I tasted it. I did add another cup of honey at this point, with more pectin, but by then it was boiling again and I had to take it off before I ended up with plum taffy or something. I guess the next time I’ll tweak the recipe a little bit and try to get it sweeter. The plum juice is very tart and the lemon juice made it more so. We like to keep the tartness and have it contrasting with the sweet. Everyone seems to like it so far, so maybe it won’t go to waste.