Sunday, October 7, 2007

101 Uses for Plums

101 Uses for Italian Plums is a book I want to write some day. We have tons of plums every year - well, not tons, but we do get at least 60 pounds a year from our three immature trees in the back yard. That's a lot of plums.

The first year we were here we ate a bunch of them fresh, and dried the rest. The second year we branched out into jam. Our third fall here we added home-fermented plum vinegar - which turned out to be some of the best vinegar either of us had ever tasted. This year, our fourth, we are drying some, juicing some for vinegar, plum syrup and possibly a small batch of plum wine, and making some into plum puree for jam and sauces. I'm already planning to make plum butter and plum conserve with some of the puree.

Along the way we've discovered several interesting uses for dried plums. For instance, dried plums make a wonderful Plum Walnut bread. They also can be diced and make great substitutes for raisins in cookies and baked goods. We're also planning to mince a few of the dried plums and add spices and dried raspberry leaves to make our own Plum Spice herbal tea for winter. I plan to try some of our dried plums in a plum "pudding" for the holidays this year, as well.

Our three trees are nowhere near their full size, so I won't be shocked if in five years our harvest is closer to 100 pounds every fall. But if I can keep finding new ways to use them, it'll be worth all the work to put them up. When we start to get more than we can comfortably use for these recipes, I guess we can always juice them and just can the juice for drinking straight. But that's about as far as my imagination has taken me on this, so I suppose I need to get out Google and see what else I can find.

It's a lot of work to grow, harvest and process all this fruit, but it's a comforting sort of work. In the process, we are learning how to use more of what we have to make staple foods and tasty treats and condiments our family loves to eat. If all the vinegars we make this year turn out, we will have all the tasty vinegar we need to make salad dressings, marinades and other condiments this next whole year. We are already self sufficient on jams and jellies and fruit syrups for pancakes and home-made sodas. We haven't bought raisins in months. And I managed to re-create one of our favorite artisan breads in a healthier whole grain version, using mostly local or home made products. So besides being good food and giving us interesting projects to do, it's also helping us to live a more sustainable life in general. Little steps? Yes, but if you take enough little steps eventually you will get where you want to go.

The only problem is, all the apples are ready next!

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