Plummy accents

I wrote earlier this year about using up some plums my friend had given me. I never did get around to showing you the ice cream I made, mainly because I made the spicy plum ‘swirl’ mix and then froze it until I got around to making the ice cream several weeks later. Now I will warn you that the photo looks somewhat alarming. I made a custard as the basis for the ice cream, but my hen Letty lays eggs with such dark yellow coloured yolks that they made the ice cream very yellow.

Yellow ice cream courtesy of Letty's eggs
Yellow ice cream courtesy of Letty’s eggs

 I don’t think it looks so good with the plum mix – at least it tastes great.

Plum swirl ice cream, lurid but tasty!
Plum swirl ice cream, lurid but tasty!

Our other plum taste this month is the Sparkling Plum wine that TB made from plums we were given in early 2014. The colour may be pale and interesting but the alcohol level turns out to give quite a kick.

Sparkling Plum wine, taste with a kick
Sparkling Plum wine, taste with a kick

Now we just need to put the rest of the vintage aside for special occasions.

 

First forage for the year

Last week we went for a drive by our favourite fruit foraging spot, just to see how this year’s crop of apples are shaping up. They are shaping up really well, but it will be at least another month before we can start picking.

However, there was something to pick. Tiny plums, the size and colour of cherries. There were just enough plums to make some jam.

A bowl of foraged plums
A bowl of foraged plums

To give the flavour a bit of a boost I added vanilla pods to the pot. Unfortunately I didn’t realise that the pods hadn’t had the seeds scraped out so when I discarded them at the end of the cooking there was quite some consternation in the kitchen. Given the size of the plums I decided to cook them without taking the stones out – too much like hard work. I was pleased that it took very little work to push the pulp through a sieve and remove the stones that way.

I think I have to call the result a ’boutique’ offering, as there was only sufficient jam to fill two small pots.

Feral Plum and Vanilla Jam
Feral Plum and Vanilla Jam

 

Plum Loco

I hope you had a great Christmas, I can scarcely believe that we are already in to the new year! But even now I can’t take much of a break. You see my friend called me the other day and asked if I wanted some of the plums from her tree – of course the answer was yes. So now I have several kilos of plums to deal with and its a 30 degree plus day here in Canberra.

Having been steadily eating our way through our previous year’s bottlings of jam and preserves I’m in full agreement with TB that we really don’t need much more in the way of jam. But there will be some jam, in this case Plum, Rhubarb and Cherry.

All the ingredients ready to go (please ignore the sweet potatoes they are not part of this recipe!)
All the ingredients ready to go (please ignore the sweet potatoes they are not part of this recipe!)

I found the recipe in my Blue Chair Jam Cookbook. It was quite fortuitous as I often run out of ideas about how to use up all the rhubarb we grow and I still had the left-overs of the cherries I bought at Christmas. In all it made 10 small jars – but I had less fruit that the full recipe called for. Enough for us and our friends to share.

The finished jam
The finished jam

I’m also planning on making some adult-style plum swirl ice-cream. I got this idea from the December issue of New Zealand House and Garden, where they have a recipe for strawberry ripple ice-cream. I plan to substitute my plums for strawberries, which I have flavoured with cinnamon star anise and some dried orange peel to make a more sophisticated take on this dessert.

Theplums with cinnamon, star anise and orange peel, cooked and ready for the next step
Theplums with cinnamon, star anise and orange peel, cooked and ready for the next step

Not to be left out, TB decided he’d grab some plums to make a small bottle of umeshu (plum ‘wine’). This is so basic, just take some plain spirits eg vodka, or in this case some Chinese spirits, wash your fruit, place it in the jar and top with the alcohol. Leave it for several months to a year, in a cool dark spot, for a fruit-flavoured liqueur. We are hoping that this version will take on a pink colour from the plum skins.

Umeshu, in the bottle and just needing some time to develop.
Umeshu, in the bottle and just needing some time to develop.

Lastly I will do what my friend so sensibly suggested. Just stew the remaining fruit up, without sugar. When the cooked fruit is soft weigh, bag and freeze it ready for the time when you feel like making jam or can turn it into a plum tart.

Dried and Leathery

After the aerial assault on my nectarine tree the cockatoos scouted for other opportunities and soon found my neighbours’ plum tree. She also took drastic action and picked all the remaining fruit off the tree. Apart from sharing it with her family we also received two shopping bags full of extremely tasty plums. You may recall that we have already made apricot, strawberry and blackberry jam this season, along with nectarine chutney. Somehow the thought of more jam just wasn’t so appealing.

Thankfully I’d just read Christie over at Home Grown , another Grow Your Own entrant, who inspired us to make plum leather instead. Yummo, not to mention dead simple to make.The recipe details are on Christie’s 8 January 2010 post. You can see our before and after photos below that the colour change was quite dramatic.

In the excitement of going out for even more blackberries (another 3 kgs) on the weekend I didn’t check my nectarine tree until Monday morning when I discovered that about a third of the fruit had already fallen on the ground, making a lovely meals for my arch nemeses the slugs and slaters. While they were distracted I picked what was left on the tree, about 3 kgs worth. Ditto the above re jam. This time I decided to just dry the fruit. This is so simple and TB already had the dryer out (he made it himself after our commercial one died). All I needed to do was cut the fruit in half, remove the stone and place it on the racks. As we’d only just had a big rainstorm even the skin was clean. We don’t do anything to the fruit other than dry it.

Our new dryer is a large cedar box with racks that can take five large fly mesh trays. The heat source is one of those trusty old electric fry pans with a thermostat. Even after one day of drying we’ve had a fair bit of shrinkage. It will be a few days yet before we get to the fully dry version like last year’s crop. They may not be pretty but these dried nectarines are great in my muesli or used in slices and cakes.

PlumleatherbefPlumleatheraftNecdry1Necdry2Necdry3