Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Kitchen business

It's heavy work in the kitchen right now, so posting has been sparse. It's the end of the summer, a lot of produce is in season, and canning has been proceeding apace.

First of all, I made use of our tomatoes, hot peppers, sweet peppers and celery and made a batch of salsa. The celery isn't full-grown yet, but for all I know it may not ever get to the size of celery you buy in the store, so I just picked a lot of very thin little stems to make up the 4 stalks the recipe called for. It worked fine; actually, the celery taste was a little more prevalent in the final product than I'd have liked, so maybe fresh celery has a much stronger taste than store-bought celery, and you don't need as much. We haven't had as many large tomatoes as I'd expected, so I had to resort to some cherry tomatoes as well. It all worked out, though, and I ended up making 10 pint jars of salsa.

The bigger project was cooking all the damson plums I bought last Friday.

Damsons are excruciatingly picky work, because they're small, hard and clingstone.
There are two ways of dealing with them: you can just throw them all in the pot and cook them, then pick the stones out afterward, or you can laboriously carve and gouge the flesh off the stones and THEN cook it. I chose the latter course - I didn't want to fish around in a pot of hot stewed plums to pull out hundreds of pits, and putting it through a food mill would take forever, plus it would grind up the skin, and I prefer to have large pieces of skin in my jam rather than a puree.

I used this recipe, only I doubled it, so this picture is of 3 kgs of pitted plums. The plums have green flesh, and the whole thing starts out with the juice a nasty brown colour, but as it cooks, the blue skin starts releasing colour, so by the end it's a nice dark red.

Each batch took over 2 hours to prepare, standing the whole time, and I made 3 batches over 2 days. Altogether, it made approximately 45 half-pint jars of jam. Now I have new respect for the problems my aunts in Victoria encountered last year. They planted a damson plum tree the year before, and last year it produced 75 lbs of plums! This was how much work I had with only 18 lbs - what I'd do with 75, I can't imagine. Start giving them away to other people to cook, I suppose. The thing about damsons, though, is that they have a pattern of producing very heavily one year, then doing almost nothing for 1 or 2 years after, as they gain strength for another huge crop. So now I know what I have to look forward to, if my tree survives.

This has all kept me from commenting on the ongoing Anglican angst, though nothing much seems to be happening until the end of September, so things just seem to be in a holding pattern. I expect I'll get back to it next week, once the kids go back to school and I have more time to myself.


Blogger Nicholodeon said...

Awesome! Plum divine!

Relative to Anglican Angst: Bp 'Vicky' G Robinson has announced his nuptials to his (male) partner of 18 years, the ceremony to take place some time before the Lambeth Tea Party in September.

2:41 pm  
Blogger Dr. Alice said...

Nigel Slater, a British cookbook writer, loves damson plums and has what sound like some great recipes for them, including a crisp. He says he never bothers to pit them for the crisp because it's simply too difficult; he just warns people about the stones.

3:52 pm  

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