Make an Easy Wild Plum Jelly

Wild plums, of any of their sweet and tart varieties, make a delicious jelly with this easy recipe.

| June/July 1992

Where jams and jellies are concerned, wild plums are a peach of a fruit, the apple of any picker's eye. A fickle fruit that ripens any time between late spring and later summer, it comes in a peck of colors, a barrel of shapes, a bushel of sizes. Some are sweet, some tart. And it boasts the highest food value of any fruit, with a 20% carbohydrate content.

In the Northern Hemisphere, there are 2,000 varieties of the main types. There are about 30 varieties of native wild plums throughout the United States alone. Additional hybrids add to the complexity of variation and dilution of "purity." Some wild plums are the size of cherries, some the size of eggs. Wild native types are diverse in skin color: deep red, glowing orange, bluish crimson, bright red, bright yellow, dark yellow. Shapes may be globate, oval, conical, or heartlike. All are smooth skinned, hard-pitted drupes with yellow juicy "meat."

The first wild plums (Prunus americana and other species) are usually ready to be plucked by June. While picking plums, one should exercise a fair amount of caution: the twigs of these scrubby trees are covered with dull, pointed thorns. The fruit itself grows singly, not in clusters as do cherries. Ripe plums will drop into one's hand at a finger's slightest provocation, and yield an elastic sensation to the squeeze of pinching fingers.

Ripened fruits which have been warmed by the sun (and untouched by the ravages of decay), can often be retrieved from the ground. Wild plums which do not separate easily from the twigs are not fully ripened, but should be included in a harvest to add a tang of taste, and more importantly—natural pectin (the substance that makes jelly jell).

Easy Plum Jelly

Six pounds of plums should make four or five pints of crimson jelly or jam. After they are washed, the wild plums should be placed in a pan with two cups of water, covered with a lid, and put on a stove on "high" until they boil. They should then be left to simmer until the fruit becomes mushy. This mush should be stirred occasionally while the fruit is softening up. This process shouldn't take much longer than 30 minutes.

Once "mushified," the plum residue should be left to cool for a few moments. Then pour it into a jelly bag which has been draped over a colander and inserted into another pot.

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