When I first moved to California in my 20s, I was shocked at the amount of stone fruit going to waste in peoples’ yards. To a Midwestern kid who grew up thinking that a ripe peach in February was a great treat, the sight of peaches by the bushel rotting on the ground because someone had a peach tree in their yard that had been planted as an ornamental and they didn’t want to deal with it — well, I was genuinely shocked.
And now I have a yard with two different varieties of plums, and four apple trees. The apples were a wash this year — they were badly infested with maggots, and the ones the maggots didn’t get, the grackles seem to have done a number on.
The plum trees though, well, I’m drowning in plums. And I have a greengage tree in the yard! Who knew? That one has never produced fruit until this year — and I missed about half the plums because I kept waiting for them to turn purple. Finally, when I kept seeing these golden plums dropping off the tree it dawned on me that maybe they weren’t going ever to turn purple. They are so delicious. I’ve been giving them to everyone I know because they’re much too yummy not to eat out of hand.
My other plum tree has been showering me with a bumper crop of small, tart plums. They’re about the size of a quails’ egg and they grow in clusters, almost like grapes The dogs are quite fond of them as well — they’ll suck the plummy part right off and spit out the pits. They make lovely jam but this year I didn’t feel like jam. I don’t really eat jam, so I’ve been trying to find ways to preserve fruit so I can use it later in a crumble or a tart or a coffee cake or something (I’ve been making Clothilde‘s Gâteau au Yaourt à la Framboise with cherries all summer, and I think it would also be delicious with plums).
So I decided to do plums in syrup. Earlier this summer, I did Spiced Cherries in Syrup and they’re delicious — so I decided to do a batch with plums. I added a couple of star anise, and a big chunk of ginger, sliced to the spiced vinegar. I did four quarts of them and then did another four quarts of plain plums in sugar syrup. The recipe throws off a lot of juice, so I took the juice from the batch of sweet plums, and mixed it with a quart jar I had of the sweet cherry juice, and made 8 half-pint jars of plum-cherry jelly out of it (I used sure-jell this time. I’ve had bad luck in the past with jelly. I wind up with jars of syrup.)