Here and there, at the edges of riparian areas and irrigation ditches along the Colorado Front Range are thickets of wild plums. Prunus Americana, commonly known as wild plums or American plums, are native to North America. This variety of plum is the key ingredient some of the best jellies, jams and sauces. Take my word for it!
I've been harvesting Colorado wild plums ever since I moved this this beautiful state. With the unpredictable late spring snow storms along the Colorado Front Range, some years are better than others for fruit harvest. This happens to be a particularly good year for fruit trees, in general.
Last weekend we harvested about 6 pounds of wild plums from a small stand of shrubby plum trees about 5 minutes from our home. The trees were just loaded, and we didn't even put a dent in the amount of fruit hanging on the branches.
I let the plums soften a couple days, then pitted them using a Prepworks cherry pitter, as suggested by my sister-in-law. While the plum pits are, in general, too large to fall through the cherry pitter holes, the prongs make a quicker job of pitting by piercing the plum skin. Then, you can easily pinch the plum to push out the pit. It took me about an hour to pit the plums. I can easily pass processing time by streaming some of my favorite classical music, Beethoven concertos, Chopin ballades, Rossini Bugs Bunny overtures, Tchaikovsky symphonies. Or, maybe make it a classic rock or hip hop pitting and dancing experience.
If you're going to make jelly or jam, here are items to have on hand. You can find these in grocery stores, hardware stores, kitchen supply shops and online.
- Jars with canning lids and rims
- Large kettle
- 4-6 quart sauce pan
- Soup ladle
- Stainless steel canning funnel
- Canning jar lifter
- Lid lifter
- Cotton string
- Cheese cloth
If you read the nicely detailed instruction insert in the Sure-Jell package, you will be on your way to making delicious jelly. Do this before you even venture out to pick fruit, so you know how much to harvest. Most jam and jelly recipes list the amount of fruit in pounds. So, how do you estimate weight when in the field? Through trial and error, I have learned that a quart tub of wild plums, cherries or crab apples is about 1 pound. Last weekend, we took a kitchen scale with us, set it on the hood of the car and weighed a quart tub of plums. Then we emptied each quart harvest into a large basket.
I usually pick about 1 more pound than the recipe calls for, because I'd rather have a little too much juice for jelling, than not enough. However, if you end up a little short on juice, just add a little more water.
Of all the jelly and jam varieties I have made over the years, hands down, wild plum is my absolute favorite. With gorgeous crimson color and luscious sweet yet tangy flavor, it's fabulous on peppered water crackers, brie cheese, whole grain breads and any baked dessert calling for jelly (think sufganiyot and thumbprint cookies).