Saturday, July 20, 2013

So Many Plums!

I don't have any fruit trees..... yet. But I know people that do. And I've always heard that one tree can produce so much fruit that you can't possibly eat it all. And they are all ripe at the same time, forcing you to either give them away to friends and family, or can them. I was one of those lucky recipients this year. My mom gave me more than 20 pounds of plums. What am I going to do with 20 POUNDS of plums!?! 

Here are some of the things I made.

Plum Chipotle Jam 

If I'm going to eat jam, it's not going to be your average sweet sticky stuff. And my hubby is addicted to spice, so this recipe pleased him too. You can adjust the amount of chipotle to your taste. I got the basic plum jam recipe here and just added chipotle. They give you great instructions if you are not familiar with canning jam, so check it out. Here's my recipe:

3 pounds plums: washed, pitted, and quartered (leave the skins on for great flavor)
3 cups sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
3-4 chipotle peppers: diced
2-3 Tbsp adobo sauce from canned chipotle peppers

Put all of the ingredients in a stock over high heat and mash gently. Bring to a boil, skimming off the "scum" as needed. (Prepare you canning jars in boiling water).

Stir frequently until bubbles slow down and the mixture sticks to the spoon in clumps (The recipe says about 10-15 minutes, but it always take me more than 40 minutes).

You can remove the skins at this point if you want to, but I prefer to leave them in. They are so tender at this point that you almost don't notice them. Turn off the heat and divide jam among your hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rims and finger tighten lids. Process jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes (for 1/2 pint size jars). 

Spiced Plum Chutney
We used this chutney with pork and also at Thanksgiving with turkey. It was a hit! I found the recipe here, but I added more garlic and used dried cherries instead of currants (because that is what I had on hand). The process is pretty much the same as for the jam above, but it needs to cook longer to reduce the added liquids. Here is my recipe:

3+ lbs of plums (8 cups chopped): washed, pitted, and chopped
2 red onions, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
1/2 cup cider vinegar
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper chili flakes

Makes about 4 pints (or 8 half pints)

1. Prepare jars.
2. Put all ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce to a  
    steady simmer, and cook (stirring occasionally) until the mixture is reduced by a third 
    (30-40 minutes or longer).
3. Put chutney in jars and seal with lids. Process jars in hot water canner for 10 minutes. 
    Store for at least 6 weeks before serving for best flavor. Refrigerate after opening.

Plum fruit leather
This was a fantastic way to use the plums. Even my picky eater (who wouldn't touch a plum with a ten foot pole) gobbled it down. I'll be making them again, despite the long cooking time, because it may be the only way I get her to eat fruit! I found the basic instructions for fruit leather here. I used plums and peaches together and it was DELICIOUS!

This recipe is easily doubled, and I would suggest it because they are devoured in seconds!
All you need is fruit, water, sugar, lemon juice, and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.

4 cups chopped fruit (I did 2 cups plums and 2 cups peaches) 
1/2 cup water

Bring to a simmer and cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes, until fruit is cooked through.
Taste mixture to determine sugar needed. Depending on the ripeness of the fruit, you will need to add more or less sugar. Add sugar 1 Tbsp at a time. I didn't add much because I like my leather to be a little on the tart side.  Add 1 tsp lemon juice to enhance the fruit flavor and add tartness. Add a few pinches of spices. I added cinnamon and nutmeg.

Continue cooking until thickened (10-15 minutes or more). Puree the mixture to make it smooth. I used a stick blender to do this. Adjust sugar and spices if necessary. 

Pour puree onto a lined baking sheet (using microwave safe plastic wrap or parchment). Make sure the lining hangs over the edge, but does not fold back over the puree. The mixture should be 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Bake at 140 degree Fahrenheit (or the lowest setting on your oven) for 8-10 hours. (Mine took much longer, but I think it was because my pan was warped that there was a spot that was too thick). The fruit leather is ready when the surface is smooth and no longer sticky. It will peel off the plastic quite easily.

To store fruit leather (if you have any left over after the kids and husband devour it), wrap it in plastic wrap and keep it in the refrigerator.

Nana's Dishcloth

Wow! It's July!! Where the heck did March, April, May, and June go??? Sometimes time flies by faster than I ever thought possible. But I'm really happy that it's summer. Summer schedule gives me the time to do a lot of the things I love, like gardening, canning, and knitting. So look forward to posts about my veggies (which are doing fantastic in their new location!).

This week's forcast is over 100 degrees for seven days straight, so I think I'll be spending most of my time next to the pool watching my kids swim. Although I won't get a lot of housework done, I will be able to catch up on my blog and get ahead on my knitting. Maybe I'll even start some Christmas presents so I won't be cramming at the last minute.....Yeah, right.

So, in honor of summer, and to make up for four months of no blog posts, I am giving you my favorite knitted dishcloth pattern! Yes, it's very basic, but I've tried many different ones and continue to return to this one (that I got from my grandmother) as the best. It's probably the same pattern that they give you free with some yarns, but to me it will always be Nana's Dishcloth.

(Yes, my dishcloths look a little wonky... but as soon as I wash them, they will be nice and square).

Nana's Dishcloth
100% cotton yarn (like "Sugar'n Cream")
Size 7 or 8 knitting needles (I like to use 16" circular, but any type is fine)

(This pattern starts at one corner, increases to halfway, and then decreases to the opposite corner)

Cast on 3 stitches.
Knit across.
Knit 1, Yarn over, Knit to the end. (Increase row)
**Repeat increase row until you have about 46 stitches (or the dishcloth is the size you like).
Knit across one time.
Knit 2 together, Yarn over, Knit 2 together, Knit to the end. (Decrease row)
**Repeat decrease row until you have 3 stitches left.
Knit across.
Cut yarn with a 6 inch tail, and using a yarn needle thread yarn through all three stitches.
Fasten off (weave tail into cloth to secure stitching)

Happy Knitting!