We have been very lucky – we seem to have been spared the storm that has hit much of the country. Today it has rained on and off all day, but gently, in a good for the garden way. We have had virtually no wind either so the tomatoes have stayed upright, the fruit hasn’t been blown off the trees and I haven’t had to retrieve the garden furniture from anywhere.
Things are certainly growing in the garden (no photos since it is raining) but the corn, the first planting of dwarf beans, the first planting of carrots, and another planting of potatoes are up. I harvested almost all of the fortune plums a few days ago. They were not fully ripe but I didn’t want them to blow off if the storm hit – fruit on the ground is fair game for the hens, ducks and geese who live in the orchard. Their job is to dispose of spoiled fruit, not the good stuff. As with many of our trees, they have been slow to fruit because of the issues caused by a neighbour (’nuff said) but those that have survived seem to have finally decided to act like fruit trees and fruit. The crop is small but hopefully next year will be better. We lost a lot of plum blossom with lots of rain at the wrong time, but some trees are OK. We originally planted a huge range of plum varieties so that they wouldn’t all fruit at the same time. I will preserve these for ourselves this year, though they do make wonderful jam, quite different from Black Doris jam.
To preserve there we follow what both our mothers and my grandmothers did – stew the plums in a medium syrup (1 cup sugar to 2 cups water), and when cooked but not smushed carefully fill to overflowing pre-heated washed (sterilised) jars. Debubble the jars by poking with a chopstick or some such (I have a special very long handled spoon). Wipe the rim with a damp cloth, and then place a similarly sterilised lid and ring, tighten and leave to seal. The satisfying ping later will tell you that all is well.
Some of our plum varieties are more free stone than others, and these we freeze in 1.3kg bags. We figure 1.3kgs will give us about 1kg of fruit after stoning. Once upon a time we used to stone the fruit before we froze it, but that was many moons ago and we now work smarter, not harder. When we want to use plums for jam, chutney or sauce we then defrost the required amount and then stone just that many. With Black Doris for example, we thaw a bag for about 6 minutes in the microwave, then cut the plums in half, give the stone a flick with a thumbnail and they’re done. Sometimes the bags get to be a little heavier and when we find one of these we make sauce (again, this one is for home consumption).
SWEET AND SPICY PLUM SAUCE
1.8kg plums, stones in weight
225g onions, chopped
500 ml malt vinegar
1 T of each of salt, ground ginger, ground allspice, dry mustard powder
225g brown sugar
Cut and destone the plums as above, and cook with the onions, the salt and the spices in the vinegar for about 30 minutes. Stir in the sugar and bring to the boil. Simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. Using either a blender or a handheld whiz puree the sauce and bottle. Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp cloth and lid.
Enjoy with cold meat or sausages