We go to the neighborhood playground a lot—so often, in fact, that my three-year old can now run straight there without any directions, over two different routes! One way to go involves walking down the sidewalk on the edge of the greenbelt, and every time we passed there in August and September, I had to stop and scratch my head at the little green fruits that were starting to develop on three or four scrubby little trees (and then race to catch up with Nolan, who is not remotely interested in shrubbery when he could be going down the slide!). After much pondering, I was able to identify the trees as wild plums, and sure enough, they eventually developed cherry-sized pinkish fruits with sour yellow flesh and a normal-sized stone in the center.
By the time I had plucked up courage and made space in my schedule to go pick some plums for jam, there was only one tree still bearing fruit. Over the course of a week, I picked all of the remaining plums, most of which were still quite firm but fell off the tree at the lightest touch, with a sweet smell but very sour flavor. I gave them a few days to ripen up a bit, and then set about making jam.
Here are the plums, rinsed and starting to heat up in my Dutch oven. I cut one open so you can see the ratio of flesh to pit. I simmered them with a little sugar until they burst and released their juices, then ran them through my food mill to remove the skins and stones. This proved to be a rather time-consuming process, because the stones were just large enough to catch the food mill’s blade, and I ended up fishing most of them out with a spoon as I went. The orange pulp that remained went back on the heat with more sugar and a little pectin until it was softly set.
This was my first time using Pomona’s Universal Pectin, and I think it went pretty smoothly, although I did notice a few lumps developing when I stirred in the pectin powder. I followed the ratios for sour plum jam and ended up with about 3 1/2 pint jars of silky-smooth, sweet-tart jam—or would this just be a preserve?
Not a bad result for free foraged fruit! We’ve been eating up the extra cup or so that I didn’t water-bath, and it hasn’t killed us yet, which is a good sign.