Recipes | Wild Plum Jam

The wild plums are sure bountiful this year! I don’t know what they were like last year, but this year has been amazing. I went picking again this morning with a friend, and we picked about 6 gallons of plums! I couldn’t believe it. When we drove up to the (secret) plum thicket, my heart sank a little, since the branches seemed awfully bare. But we climbed down into the thicket and the ground was covered with beautiful, firm, ripe fruit. Most of what we picked we actually picked off the ground. The plums that were still on the tree were barely attached and just fell off into our hands, or fell to the ground as we shook the branches.IMG_4288eYesterday, I finished processing my first batch of plums as plum jam, and it did not disappoint. Here is the recipe, the process adapted from a recipe on Kitchn and a Sure-Jell recipe.IMG_4270eIngredients

  • ~1 gallon of plums
  • 1 box powdered pectin
  • 8 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. butter (optional)


Wash plums and cut off bad spots. In a stockpot with about a half a cup of water, cook the plums with pits, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes, mashing the fruit as you go. A potato masher can also be used to help loosen the pits. When the plums have reached a sauce-like consistency, remove from the heat and pull out the pits, leaving as many of the skins as possible. Use an immersion blender to blend the pulp and chop up the skins. Measure out 6 cups of pulp. There will be extra. In a stockpot, combine the plum pulp and the powdered pectin. Add butter if desired to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Mixture should continue to boil even while you are stirring. Add the sugar. Return to a boil, and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a minute or two. Skim off any foam that forms, and save for a taster.

Pour into prepared jars, clean the rims and threads, and seal jars with two-piece canning lids. Process 10 minutes in hot water bath (I adjusted for altitude and processed for 15 minutes).IMG_4272Notes

Jam differs from jelly in that jelly uses only the juice, while jam uses all of the usable fruit, including the skin. Plums can be pitted before or after cooking. Either way is bound to be tedious. I left the pits in and after an hour of pulling the pits out, I was almost in tears. Part of that may have had to do with the fact that I didn’t start processing them until 11:00 pm, so it was 1:00 am and I was still pulling pits out. So it was bad timing. If I make jam again, I don’t know if I will leave the pits in and cook them, or pit them ahead of time. I may try to use a ricer, which would unfortunately pull the skins out, but would at least make it easier to separate the pits and the pulp. It would be worth a try. IMG_4281eI had never made plum jam before, and I don’t know if I have ever even eaten plum jam before. But it is exquisite on bread with a generous quantity of butter. Enjoy!


Not Bad for a Morning’s Work

And really, it only took probably a half hour to pick these. The bigger the fruit, the funner (yes, funner) to pick. Because it goes so much more quickly. I love picking chokecherries, I really do, partly because it is somewhat therapeutic, partly because I love chokecherry jelly. But when it takes about 2 hours to fill a gallon-sized bucket…Well, plums are much better in that regard. However, if you ever get a chance to pick wild plums, be sure to wear tough jeans and a thick jacket or sweatshirt. They have some serious thorns. IMG_3883eIMG_3672eNot bad for a morning’s work.



Wild Fruit and Wildlife

We headed out around 6:00 this morning, just Mom and I, hoping to catch a sunrise over Custer State Park. The smoke had lifted some from yesterday, but a thick haze still obscured the colors of the sunrise. The buffalo were nowhere to be found. Those were the main things that I wanted to photograph, but a drive through the Wildlife Loop (or anywhere in the Hills for that matter…) never disappoints.
IMG_3457eAn early drive through the Park means very little competing traffic, and we buzzed down side roads and backtracked here and there, all in all driving the Loop about two and a half times over the course of the morning! Little splashes of color in the fading grasses and shrubs caught our eyes, including these vibrant hawthorn berries.IMG_3469eIMG_3396eWe enjoyed a small herd of pronghorns, and this curious little darling, who frisked about with his elders. A few burros ambled along near the road, a couple pair of mamas and babies, a few yearlings, and a few adults. The burros have such wistful eyes, and funny expressions on their fuzzy faces.IMG_3428eIMG_3451eIMG_3439eI don’t know that I could name the highlight, but I was pretty hungry on the way home. A beautiful thicket of wild plums was sure a treat.IMG_3481eLike I said, a drive through the Hills never disappoints…

Chokecherry Moon

It is the moon of chokecherries, for which some of us have been eagerly waiting! All spring, I saw the flowers and made note of where the bushes were, and finally the fruit is ripening, ready to harvest. These small wild cherries make a delicious old-fashioned jelly, which I remember always on hand in my grandmother’s kitchen. She would put it out at nearly every meal.  IMG_8516The chokecherries on the ranch apparently disappeared for awhile, but they have sprung up all along the driveway. Mom was in Rapid City today and visited her uncle, since he called to let her know the chokecherries were ripe at his place, and she came home with pounds and pounds of them. After she got back, a short drive up our driveway yielded another third of a gallon or so of cherries. And many more to ripen, along with a few golden currant bushes I know of on our property! IMG_8515I also know of a great spot for chokecherries along Hwy. 44. But it is a secret.

Laura Elizabeth