Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Damson Plums - Bosc Pears - Ida Red apples - more elderberries - Jolly Elf Tomatos. I spent Labor Day weekend laboring at the farm - making jams and jellies from Damson Plums and apples and elderberries - canning pears for the first time in my life - and making salsa. E and his brother were busy with installing a new fuel oil tank so they stayed out of the kitchen all weekend!

This was my first introduction to the Damson Plum. DH identified the tree for me and asked it it was good for anything? (Poor photo from my cell phone - I really need to get a better cell phone camera or start carrying an actual camera!) The fruits are about the size of a large grape - but the tree was just loaded with plums. Research online tells me that the fruit is extremely tart (I knew that by tasting!) and that it makes excellent jams and pies. I tried the jam first - I don't think I would have needed the pectin but added it anyway. It came out a little firm. I also found a recipe for a plum tart. I picked a total of four gallons of the plums and didn't come near picking them all from one tree. I am wondering how to process the rest of them (I have three gallons left) and think that drying into plums is probably not feasible for such a small fruit. Perhaps cooking, then freezing the paste?

I picked 4 half bushels of pears. They are a tad bit underripe, but I may not get back to the farm in time to pick them when they ripen. I want to make some pear mincemeat, perhaps some chutney, and pear butter. I canned 5 quarts of the ripest ones today - seemed like it took hours to peel, cut in half, trim, then treat with lemon juice, poach in a honey syrup, then pack into the jars. I tried to give some away to my stepmother, she said "no, thanks"!

The salsa also took a lot of prep time - since I used Jolly Elf tomatos - they are quite small and there was a lot of cutting to yield a small amount of salsa. I actually used jalapenos in this recipe, sometimes this makes it a little hotter than I like it, but we'll see.

I cut a jelly bag from an old pillowcase and used it to strain the quartered apples. Since I didn't have a stand for the jelly bag at the farm I improvised using a colander. The apples were also a tad bit underripe- makes for good jelly but not too great for pie, which was requested by my brother-in-law. I made apple jelly, apple-elderberry jelly, and apple-plum jelly.

I found the elderberries were mixed as to ripeness - some were perfect, including the largest single head of berries I've ever seen - others were still way too red. I scouted the edge of the property along the creek and found another elderberry bush - I probably was able to pick about a quart all together. I was not too picky about the smallest stems, since I was making jelly I reasoned that they would not end up in the final product anyway. The jelly hasn't set yet. I will probably have to re-process it.

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