Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Dealing with Plums

The plums started ripening at Christmas in December, just as the loquats were finishing.
It is difficult to find the exact type of plums. I spent a lot of time googling plum types.
I found McGrath Nurseries page of plum types one of the most useful because it gives New Zealand based information. This page also helps to work out what a plum variety might be and then I would google the type of plum I thought I had for potential recipes.
We have something like 12 different types that ripen after one another.
Cherry plums can be seen as a useless plum but I found Sally Wises' blog and she has great recipes.
All summer we had the Sparkling plum drink on the go. The cherry plums were the best plum for this. We also messed around with her recipe a bit. We tried to reduce the sugar but if you reduce it too much then it will grow mould. Below is the adapted recipe we used but you can experiment with what works for you. It is the natural yeast on the plums that makes it ferment. Sally's recipe has cider vinegar in it but with a expect home brewer in the family, we stopped adding this. Partly because in beer the acetic acid flavour that is added by the vinegar is a flavour to be avoided in beer.

Sparkling Cherry Plum Juice

900g sugar
1kg clean but not washed cherry plums (or other plums). The plums should be unblemished.
1 lemon chopped
1 litre of boiling water
3.5l of water

Mix the sugar and the boiling water together in a large pot - big enough to hold all the ingredients (I used our big stock pot). Stir until all the sugar is dissolved.
Add the cherry plums and crush with a potato masher so they split.
Add the second measure of water and the chopped slices of lemon.
Cover with a clean teatowel and leave sitting on the bench for three to four days depending on your summer temperatures. Keep an eye on it after day 3 to see if little bubbles are appearing on the surface.
Once it has fermented a little, strain out the fruit and lemons using a sieve or lift them out with a slotted spoon and pour your light pink liquid into very clean plastic soft drink bottles. Put the lids on tight.
Leave sitting on the bench until the bottles are tight with the carbonation. You really want to make sure they are tight or it won't be fizzy enough. This can take another 3 days, depending on your summer temperatures. Once they are tight put them in the fridge ready to drink. This is a very refreshing drink on a hot summer's day.
This recipe makes 3 1.5l bottles of drink. We continuously had a stock pot of this fermenting on the bench so there was always more juice to refill the bottles.
Cherry plum tree in the overgrown orchard

With our many varieties of plum we made jam, we preserved some as pulp and as whole plums, and froze sweetened pulp. A large mouli makes life much easier when dealing with a lot of plums. You can quickly separate the stones and skins.

We also made a spiced plum chutney recipe, which is very nice. Unfortunately the internet has many spice plum chutney recipes, I think the one I made was this one. Note to self it is important to bookmark recipes so if they are a success we can make them again.
It is also important to label the jars. I didn't used to label my preserves because I knew what they were. Now we are preserving so many, I found it is important to date and label.
One other method I tried was this one of preserving whole fruit, supposedly so it tastes like fresh fruit. I tried this with some tasty doris type plums we had that were very good eating fresh. I opened a jar of these recently - 6 months later. At first tasting, these have definitely preserved, they have not gone off, but they certainly don't taste like fresh fruit. I don't think I will use this particular method again.

Using the yellow plums I tried this yellow plum salad but with the ingredients I had available. So I used a red capsicum and left out the beets. I had a tangy cheese so substituted that for the goat's cheese, that I didn't have on hand. The recipe I ended up making as below. It was very tasty and used up some plums.

Yellow plum salad

4-6 yellow plums, quartered and stones removed
red capsium cut into strips
two tomatoes quartered
tangy cheese like goat's cheese or feta or whatever you have available

Dressing ingredients:
2.5 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs white wine vinegar
1 tspn fresh thyme
1 tspn dijon mustard
1/4 tsp pepper
several grinds of black pepper

Combine the salad ingredients - feel free to adjust amounts to what you have available and to your taste. Combine dressing ingredients and mix well together before tipping over your salad.
We ate a lot of the plums fresh and it was the plums that started the practice of having stewed fruit in the fridge to go on breakfast cereal. The plums were still going when the nashis and peaches started ripening.

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5 Favourite Sights Seen

  • 1996 Watching tropical lightning turn night to day, outside a little wooden church in a small village in Sabah.
  • 2004 Flying down the Rainbow Valley at 8000ft in a cessna on a clear blue day.
  • 2003 Seeing and hearing Michael Schmacher rolling out of the pit garage in his Ferrari in Hungary.
  • 2009 Chancing upon 100 or more dolphins just off the Kaikoura Coast swimming around, jumping out of the water, doing somersaults and generally having fun.
  • 2006 Finding a pool at the bottom of a waterfall in the bush at Kaikoura that was full of playing baby seals.