On the Hunt for Wild Plums & Making Wild Plum Jam
It's finally a comfortable day in late August, and I thought it would be fun to take a little ride and do some foraging. Foraging by horseback is a lot of fun, but you need a
willing equine partner who will let you do some crazy stuff - like ask him to stand still while you stand on his butt to pick fruit above your head. Luckily, my horse Valentine and I have been foraging together for the last 8 years. Here we are heading out into the forest and going to a place I found some unripe wild plums a few weeks ago.
The prairie was buzzing with just-bloomed goldenrod and full of bees and hornets. These little busy guys are getting ready for the cold months ahead.
I found some wild grapes along the way. I picked a few of these and took along some of the non-bug-chewed leaves for preserving pickles (makes them crispy!).
At last I found what I was looking for - wild plums! These little juicy fruits are amazing. They have large pits, and so you need a lot to make jam. They might also be too tart to eat raw (luckily these were not). So after a small snack, I filled my saddle bags and headed home.
Pitting them took forever, and in retrospect, I should have tried my cherry pitter. I will have to remember that for next year. I put them into small chunks to put into the jam pot.
Here is the recipe I use for Wild Plum Jam. I like texture in my preserves, so I leave the skins on, but you could elect to either whiz them up in a blender, pass them through a fine sieve or food mill, or peel them (I cannot imagine how much time peeling would take!). This jam is sweet-tart and is a perfect accompaniment on a charcuterie board or cheese plate. It pairs very will with mild goat cheese or a blue cheese. You can also make this with regular plums, but it will not be as complex in flavor.
WILD PLUM JAM
3 lbs pitted and chopped wild plums
4 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 TBS lemon juice
3oz fruit pectin
This recipe makes 8, 8oz jars.
If you are unfamiliar with hot-water canning methods, please check out this water-bath canning tutorial from Ball. It's easy - nothing to be scared of!
Sterilize jars, lids, and rims following jar manufacturer's recommendations.
Place pitted and roughly chopped plums and lemon juice into a heavy pot with the water over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil.
Simmer for 5 minutes.
Add sugar and let come to a rolling boil over high heat. Stir constantly.
Add pectin and let come to a boil again. (Normally for plums you do not need pectin. However, I've had some issues with wild plums not having enough, so I've learned to always add some.) Keep stirring for about 1 minute.
Remove from heat and skim off any foam.
Pack into 8oz jars, leaving 1/8" headroom. Put on lids and rims.
Process for 5 min in hot-water bath.
Remove, and let cool. The lids should "ping" and suck down as the jars cool. If you have any that do not do not seal properly - refrigerate and use this jam in the next few days.
Label your jam with the type and date, and place on a shelf until you are ready to taste a little summer!