Wooo Hooo…who doesn’t love foraging for free fruit!
On our way home from delivering our youngest to college in Boise, James & I took a little road trip along the back roads of western Idaho and eastern Oregon. The waaaay back roads. Nearly eight hours later we arrived in Walla Walla, WA. right in the midst of the beautiful Palouse wheat fields.
Our journey took us through the spectacular Hell’s Canyon National Recreation Area with it’s piney woods and breathtaking vistas. In hindsight, if we knew then what we know now, we probably would have filled up the tank before heading out on the twisty, turning, 62 mile, barely-paved, secondary road. We breathed a huge sigh of relief when we pulled into the little town of Joseph, OR. and found a gas station. We celebrated with milkshakes.
After a satisfying Mexican dinner and a good night’s sleep. The next morning we headed for the hills in search of a stand of wild plum trees our friend David Perry had told us about. Under a glorious blue sky, we picked until our bag was loaded, then turned the car towards Seattle and home.
As we pulled into the driveway much later that evening, it struck us that we were now official empty nesters; nobody home but us fruit-foragers. Fortunately sweet Walla Walla Wild Plum Jelly helped sweeten this bittersweet truth.
Most old neighborhoods seem to have at least one ancient plum tree, buzzing with yellow jackets and laden with fruit that goes unpicked. Don a protective long-sleeved shirt and brave the wasps for the makings of this beautiful jewel-toned jelly. Different varieties of plums will yield slightly different results as their natural pectin levels vary. Damson plums are very tart with acidic skins and are much higher in pectin than other plums, for example.Season: Mid- to late summer Yield: 6 cups Store: Cool, dark pantry
4 pounds Italian prune plums, halved and pitted (at least 1/4 of which should be barely ripe)
2 cups water
3 to 4 cups sugar
3 to 5 tablespoons lemon juice
Place the plums and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer until the fruit is very soft, 15 to 20 minutes.
Transfer the fruit to a dampened jelly bag or cheesecloth-lined colander suspended over a bowl. Drain for several hours to fully extract the juices. The yield will be about 4 cups. Do not press on the fruit, squeeze the bag, or try to hurry the process in any way-if you do, you will cloud what should be a rosy-golden, crystal-clear juice.
Measure the strained juice into a preserving pan and add 1 cup of sugar for every cup of plum juice; taste, adding lemon juice to make the fruit pleasantly tart.
Heat the mixture over medium-high heat to bring it rapidly to a boil, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Cook the jam until it reaches 220°F on a kitchen thermometer or until set. Remove from heat.
Carefully ladle the hot jelly into hot, sterilized half-pint jars, allowing 1/4 inch headspace. Process in a water-bath for 10 minutes.
From Canning & Preserving Your Own Harvest, by Carla Emery & Lorene Edwards Forkner, 2009 Sasquatch Books