Saturday, January 19, 2013

Plum Jelly: Day 1

Thanks to my friend Jenny, I've had these plums frozen in my freezer since this summer.  I'd been waiting for life to slow down a bit (winter to arrive) then I'd turn them into some plum jelly.   So, this week, my friend Jessica and I made it happen.
After my pear jelly flop (it was runny liquid), I was afraid to try again "the old fashioned way" (without Pectin).  I did lots of research -- I searched online, questioned my fellow canning club members, and called my Mamaw.  I finally decided that we'd use pectin this time and picked up a few pointers on exactly how to make it happen.

Step 1 (and Day 1) was to extract the juice from the plums.

First, I thawed them.  The directions I had said to pit them but leave the skins on, then roughly chop.  Twenty minutes into the pitting process, I decided that it was entirely too tedious.  (I am willing to work hard, but tedious work really grates on me sometimes.)  I decided there had to be a faster way.  After all, I was planning to strain the juice once the plums had cooked.  Why not leave the pits in?  So, I threw whole plums into the food processor to "roughly chop" them. . . . and I broke my food processor.  Yep, this smart gal pushed the pulse button once and a piece of plastic flew dangerously across the kitchen.  Lesson learned.  Plum pits have no place in the food processor.  (Maybe I can order a replacement part online -- it's hard to imagine life can go on long without a food processor.)

Still not willing to pit the plums, I threw them whole (not even roughly chopped) into the saucepan (4 lbs. of plums to 1 c. of water) and began to mash them with my potato masher, splattering plum juice ALL. OVER. MY. KITCHEN.

Still, I proceeded.  I brought the mashed plums to a rolling boil and, stirring pretty much constantly, kept them at a boil for 10 minutes. 
The plums magically turned to juice!  Stirring, I could feel the pits and skins, but otherwise it was liquified.

My Mamaw had advised me that I could strain through pretty much anything, depending on how much pulp I wanted in the finished product.  This first go round, I was hoping for a nice, clear, clean-looking jelly, so I strained it through  my butter muslin (which is a tighter weave than cheesecloth).  I allowed it to strain for several hours.  And, of course, in my impatience, I would come in and squish and squeeze it a bit every hour or so.

Once complete, I had approximately 15 cups of pure plum juice.  It only takes 4 c. of juice to make a batch of jelly.  That's plenty for Jessica and I to use to make 2 batches on Day 2 of this process.  John and I had some juice with our breakfast this week, too.  (It was so thick and tart, though, that we watered it down and added some Agave nectar to counter the tart taste a bit.)

So, despite my ridiculous antics, I did end up with beautiful juice.  My food processor and splattered walls may not agree that it was a full-on success, but there's at least some value in lessons learned, right?

More on how we turned this yummy juice into jelly Monday (Sunday is my day of rest, remember)!

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