Sunday, September 15, 2013

TO PICK OR NOT TO PICK THAT IS THE QUESTION!

Those of you that have been with me for a while know the Pick or Not to Pick dilemma I face every year with my overly prolific Prune Plum tree. Last year I decided that since I had put up umpteen jars of plum chutney I would pass on picking the fruit. 
This year the tree made is so difficult. It completely covered itself with fruit.  The poor branches hung down begging me to please come and pick something.
So, I relented and sent Grandpa and Riley out with buckets to fill.

Riley loves to climb the ladder.  She chants the ladder rule as she climbs up, "Keep these body parts on the ladder at all times". Grandpa jokes that doesn't mean her nose or elbows. They took turns picking high and low, deep in the tree and way out to the edge of the branches. They filled two buckets with what I later weighed out to 20 pounds of plums! 

The chore ended when the Yellow Jackets decided they were tired of having their juicy meals removed by these two leggeds. One of them bit Riley on the side of the neck.
Grandpa scooped her into his arms and carried her into the house. Grammy put the magic lotion on to stop it from hurting and a dish of ice cream seemed to make everybody feel better.

That was two days ago. Today, lying in bed I was making a mental list of the jobs I started yesterday and had to finish today when I heard thunder. I rolled over and started a new list.

Number one, go back to sleep.

It was a perfect day to can. I can't believe I just wrote that.
sigh........... Well, it was raining off and on, the temperature down in the 50s. Not much point to trying to work outside. I might as well deal with the plums.

The young man in charge of the fruits and vegetables at the market told me that my plums were called Prune Plums. I suspect because those are the kind that they dry to make prunes. They are small, a beautiful dark purple color, have a fat hard seed in the center and aren't particularly sweet.
You can certainly eat one when they are ripe and your mouth won't pucker up but.........

One year I tried to make jam and after adding 10 pounds of sugar to the bubbling pots I decided that wasn't the way to go.

Two years ago I made Chutney and it's all gone now so maybe I actually hit on the best way to make use of those plums.

It's a long process.  If you can, or put up fruits or vegetables you know what I am talking about.  This isn't like those wonderful freezer recipes for making strawberry jam.
You have to cook the plums in a small amount of water to soften them and get the skins to split. Then you put them in that wonderful old fashion grinder that you spin the blade around and it mushes everything up. If you go backwards with your spinning you clean the sieve part.  The only thing is for those of us that grew up with very careful superstitious people around us, you aren't supposed to change the direction of your stirring or you bring back luck to yourself. Oh, the joys of endless lessons in what baggage you bring to each task.

So, I cooked and I cooked and I mushed and I mushed and I got a nice thick juicy pulp free liquid in my bowl. Then I had a cup of tea, checked my email, rested my lower back before I ventured back out to the kitchen.

Pared, cut up and chopped the six pears, 10 apples, one onion, lemon, 5 cloves of garlic, box of black currents and a piece of ginger and threw them all in the pot.  Then I added the spices and took the long handled wooden spoon to attempt to stir the pot.

Ok, lesson one here, you can not make lunch for people, eat said lunch and go back to stirring the pot.  The pot has to be stirred ALL THE TIME, or you have the start of a burnt pot on the bottom.  So, I changed pots. Pouring a hot thick bubbling liquid from one pot to another I prayed that my stirring in the opposite direction would not result in major burns on parts of my body.

Second pot going, first pot soaking, remember stir, stir, stir.
Good, except that Riley has to go down for a nap. I turn off the pot, wiser now, than I was 20 minutes ago. I neglected to put one of those screen lids on top of the pot and came back to find it had continued to bubbly merrily along and sputter purple juice over the stove and counter.

Thank God it smells good. Thank goodness the Packers are playing. I've cleaned what I can of the stove and counters. I've stirred. Riley is down for the count, the Packers are doing well, and life is good.

Twenty pounds of plums. Two HUGE big, four batch bread baking bowls were full of those plums.  Those are left over from the days when I really did bake bread only to watch my teenage sons come home and eat and entire loaf, right out of the oven.

I filled 11, eight ounce jars. They had their water bath. We listened to them thwack when the lids sealed. 


11 little jars for an entire days worth of work. 

My stove top is clean.

My counters are clean.

I have a Christmas present or two for my best friend.

John thinks the chutney tastes great. Probably because it calls for 5 tablespoons of Red Pepper Flakes.

I had Grandpa and Riley take the bowl with the discarded skins and seeds out to the upper part of the field.  The area I can see from my kitchen window. They tossed it around along with the apple and pear skins.  Now, I can enjoy watching the turkey's feast on them and the young deer decide if that's really something they are supposed to eat.

There are still a lot of plums on the tree but I'm willing to share those with the birds and those nasty yellow jackets.

Tomorrow, I'll deal with cleaning the bottom of that pan.
Yeah, that's the ticket, put that on the To-Do List.


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