Canning, Dehydrating, and Freezing Plums

Some weeks back, my husband spotted what he thought might be a "wild" (i.e., feral) plum tree. Last weekend, I finally had him drive me to the spot so I could check it out. It turned out the plums - little 1 inch balls that looked a lot like a large cherry but have a fantastic plum flavor - were ripe! I picked a bag full, then headed home to research them (they are called, not surprisingly, cherry plums and date back to the 19th century) and decide how I would preserve them.

Canning Plums

The first thing that came to mind was to can them, even though I've never eaten, seen, or heard of canned plums. But, it turns out, plums do can well. You don't have to remove their skins (always a bonus) and you may can them whole or cut them in half and pit them. For full directions, consult The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving or visit The National Center for Home Food Preservation. The raw pack method is easiest, but some people dislike it because you end up with jars that don't look full because the plums float. To prevent this, you can hot pack the plums instead.

You may also make plum jam. The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving has several recipes for both canning and freezing. You'll also find recipes all over the web, including:

* Basic Pectin Plum Jam
* No Pectin Plum Jam
* Spiced Plum Jam
* Raspberry Plum Jam
* Peach and Plum Jam
* Lower Sugar Plum Jam

I also found this great-looking recipe for canned plum pie filling.

Freezing Plums

Plums can be frozen whole or cut up. The traditional method is to pack the plums into freezer containers and cover with syrup: 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar and 4 cups of water brought to a boil until the sugar completely dissolves. Cool completely before pouring the syrup over the plums.

A more modern method is simply to pit and slice the plums, placing them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the freezer until the plum slices are solid, then transfer to a freezer bag and freeze for up to 6 months.

There is no need to thaw frozen plums before turning them into pie or jam.

Dehydrating Plums

Before there was home canning, before there were freezers, people dehydrated plums in order to preserve them. Cut the plums in half, then press them into the dehydrator tray, to help flatten them a bit. Dehydrate at 130 - 135 degrees F. until no trace of moisture remains. (To check for moisture, pinch a piece of fruit with your nail; you should feel no moisture.) To hasten dehydration, you can steam blanch the plums first.

To steam blanch: Fill a lidded pot with 1 or 2 inches of water and bring to a rolling boil. Place a steaming at least 3 inches off the bottom of the pot. Place a single layer of plums in the basket, cover, and begin counting 1 or 2 minutes. Immediately plunge the plums in ice water.
basket in the pot so it is

Plum Recipes

Of course, a great many of my plums were eaten raw, as snacks. Other ways to eat plums include:

* Plum pie, plum tart, or plum crumble/cobbler
* Plum cake
* Plum shortcake
* Roasted plums
* Plum chutney
* Plum sauce (to eat with pork)
* Kebobs
* Turkey with poached plums

Happy eating!

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