Friday, September 28, 2012

What to do with prunes?

While at Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival last weekend (see recap here), I was gifted with a shopping bag about 1/2 full of prune plums. We were eating them, but not making much of a dent, so I said I'd take them home and make jam. Yes, well...

It turns out that prunes are drier and sweeter than regular plums (I never knew that), so they behave differently. I also didn't measure them after I cut them up, which affected the outcome.

So, yesterday morning, I cut them all in half and pitted them (they are free-stone, thank goodness!), and they filled my 8 quart stock pot. Obviously, this would not work - I couldn't stir them without them slopping over the side!

So, in true Laura cooking fashion, I dirtied another pot, a 16 qt. stock pot.

This pot was a present from my mom many, many years ago. It has made horse bran mashes, many batches of jam, and lots of stock from Thanksgiving turkeys. It also has a lid, which some of my others don't (we won't go into why...).

I added a couple of inches of water and started cooking them. They got soft, and softer and then I went at them with a potato masher.

What I ended up using is one of my favorite kitchen tools - my immersion blender. I got it at a yard sale, along with its mini-food processor jar and blade for $5.00. I LOVE this tool. I use it all the time to make chopped garlic, flank steak rub that includes cilantro, ginger, jalapenos, green onions and soy sauce - the little food processor is a champ. The blender portion is wonderful for pureeing food in situ - no dirtying additional bowls, you just zoom it around until it looks good. I have a pumpkin soup recipe that begged me to get an immersion blender, which I did, and it is awesome. I also used it to puree some ginger root, which was added to the prunes, along with some allspice.

After cooking it down some more, I decided that I would turn it into jam. Reading the pectin instructions it says, "5 3/4 c chopped plums" - uh oh... I have 16 3/4 c of prune soup. This wasn't going to go well, I could tell. So, I called Michelle, who cans a lot, and makes jams and butters and asked her advice. "I put mine in the Crock Pot," she says. So I did.

It was a bit full. You can't expect things to cook down if the lid is on. So I rigged up a cover to keep any stray bugs/flies out of it out of tule netting that I scavenged from my niece's wedding 5 or 6 years ago. It worked well, and other than dunking it in it a couple of times when I was stirring it, there were no problems. After the dunking incidents, I added 2 pieces of wood (clean, of course) to hold it up off of the rim, which solved the problem nicely.

It eventually cooked down, and I got to thinking (way dangerous...). It wasn't very thick, even after cooking down, so what if... I added some more sugar (I hadn't put much in to start with), and some pectin? With my sister on the phone (who also cans a lot), I added 1 1/2 Tablespoons of pectin. Hey - it's starting to look like gravy! I decided to leave it overnight in the crockpot with the lid on, and heat it up in the morning and process it then. It still didn't seem very thick, so I added another Tablespoon of pectin, stirred it in, and let it warm up some more.

When the canner was boiling merrily away, I started filling jars, discovering that half-pint jars fit two to a slot (except where the handles are) and 2 in the middle! I ended up with 13 jars, which didn't really fit, so I made do. They were all covered with the requisite 2" of water, so I figured it was good!

Since I'm at 4300 feet, I processed them for 20 minutes after reaching boiling. After fishing them out, I went back to working on the computer (real work, not FB), and hearing the "tinks" from the kitchen is probably the best sound in the world!

Here they are, all tinked down, and ready to eat. After loading up all the jars, there was enough left in the crock pot for my morning toast.

It was very yummy...

1 comment:

Michelle said...

I guess I should have told you that although I still can't tell you how long I let my fruit butters cook down, it is MORE than two days.... Oh well, as long as you like the end product!