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New Favorite: Plums
I wanted to make plum jam. I don't have a plum tree . . . but I know the trees are out there RIPE with plums and ready for picking. So I remembered to search Craigslist. Luck would have it . . . in my town, within five miles of my house, a box of Italian plums (Prunus domestica) was ready and waiting.
When I arrived to pick up the plums, plum grower Rosemary and her husband were preparing for a harvest party, featuring a cider-making event. A huge dahlia garden was in full bloom. Apple trees were everywhere. Every year for more than 20 years, friends and family have gathered together at their home to make cider with a 100-year-old cider press, and everyone gets to take a gallon home. This is at least one very good reason to plant a fruit-producing tree in your yard this fall!
Plums trees were around the side of the house, where I snapped this picture of an Italian plum tree with spots of blue plums.
The big blue plums of the Italian plum tree grow well in Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Italian plums are late bloomers and better adapted to areas with late frosts or cool, rainy, spring weather, which might explain the abundant crop in Washington this year! Plums are also good for you up there with blueberries for antioxidant properties.
I told Rosemary what I was up to and she recommended a Plum Jam recipe in the Ball Book that calls for orange peel and Grand Marnier. Now this sounded like fun!
The Goodwill had old canning jars, but I was skeptical . . . so I found new canning jars across the street at Fred Meyer (which were actually half the price of the Goodwill jars) and the basic items for a hot water bath. When canning, you can use old jars without cracks and chips, but you want to buy new lids with new seals.
Chopping and pitting Italian plums is easy to do. Italian plums are considered freestone, which means the seed (stone) is easy to remove, or free, from the flesh. Italian plums are bright blue and very sweet and tasty and popular for drying, too. When cooked down, the greenish yellow flesh turns a dark wine color nice for canning.
Plums have natural pectin, so if you slowly cook the plums, you don't need to add the pectin. The Ball Book's Plum Jam recipe called for pectin. I found another recipe to try that called for slow-cooking the plums with no pectin and less sugar. I tried both and like the taste and texture of the slow cooked variety with less sugar.
Next for breakfast . . . buckwheat pancakes with homemade plum jam . . . yum!
Where to order a plum tree online: Raintree Nursery
Nutritional information: The World's Healthiest Foods
The Growing Gardener is Gina Renee Lozier, a Seattle-area resident, a landscape and container garden designer, and an enthusiastic student of horticulture.
The Growing Gardener copyright 2008-2013.