Feb 012011
 
Plum Rum Nutty Conserve @ Common Sense Homesteading

I had a large (two gallon) bag of plums rolling around in my freezer from last summer (thanks to my neighbor).  I used part of it to make Plum Preserves with Honey and Cardamom, and some in a plum crumble, but there were still quite a few plums left.  While my friend, Julie, was visiting last week, I decided to whip up a couple of batches of a plum conserve recipe that she really likes.

I found this recipe for Plum Rum Nutty Conserve in the booklet Gifts from the Harvest, which also has the recipes for Strawberry Banana jam, Strawberry Rhubarb jam and a number of other unusual combinations.  It is a traditional jam recipe (not low in sugar), but very tasty.  Enjoy in moderation.  :-)

Plum Rum Nutty Conserve

4 cups prepared fruit (about 2 pounds fully ripe plums)
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (I used crispy walnuts)
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel (preferably organic)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
6 cups sugar
1 box fruit pectin
½ teaspoon butter
1/2 cup dark rum

Pit plums; do not peel.  Grind or finely chop.  Measure 5 cups into a 6- or 8- quart saucepot. Stir in walnuts, lemon peel and juice.

Prepare jars (wash, inspect rims, sterilize in boiling water or dishwasher). Keep lids hot until ready to fill jars.

Measure sugar into separate bowl. Stir fruit pectin into fruit in saucepot. Add butter. Bring mixture to full rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Quickly stir in all sugar. Return to full rolling roil and boil exactly one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.  Gently stir in rum.  Skim off any foam with a metal spoon.  (I usually skip skimming, unless I’m processing for the county fair.)

Ladle quickly into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tope. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Invert jars 5 minutes, then turn upright, or follow water bath method recommended by the USDA. After jars are cool, check seals.

Makes about 8 (1 cup) jars.

Plum Rum Nutty Conserve

My batches made seven jars each this time around, probably because the plums were frozen.

The Live in the Now website has some interesting tidbits of information on plums:

Like most fruits, plums are good for you and the health benefits of plums are worth your attention. They are a good source of unique phytonutrients called neochlorogenic and chlorogenic acid. These substances are especially effective in neutralizing a particularly destructive oxygen radical called superoxide anion radical, and they also help prevent oxygen-based damage to fats, such as the fats that comprise a substantial portion of our brain cells or neurons, the cholesterol and triglycerides circulating in our bloodstream, or the fats that make up our cell membranes.

The other health benefits of plums can be attributed to their excellent nutritional profile. Plums are good source of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and lutein and zeaxanthin, pigments that help protect your vision. Eating three or more servings of fruit a day can lower by about one-third your risk of age-related macular degeneration, the primary cause of vision loss in older adults.

As I said, this is a “treat”  or gift type item, but the flavors are lovely together.  I passed the recipe along to the friend with the plum trees.  For an alternative that’s lower in sugar, do try the plum preserves with honey and cardamom.  The recipe book suggests it as a topping for ice cream or cheesecake, but I like it on toast with butter or nut butter, or mixed into yogurt.

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Nov 012010
 

How to Make Sauerkraut @ Common Sense Homesteading

Sauerkraut has been around for at least a couple of thousand years.  If you’d like a more detailed history, you can take a peek at this article.  It was eaten by workers on the Great Wall of China, packed by Captain Cook to prevent scurvy, and valued by Northeastern Europeans as a staple food through the long winters.  While the name may mean “rotten cabbage”, if you do it right it should be quite the opposite, staying fresh for an extended period of time. Continue reading »

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Sep 142010
 

Root Cellars: The Low Cost Way to Store Over 30 Fruits and Vegetables Without Electricity.  How to design a root cellar?   What can I store in a root cellar?

We built a root cellar under our front porch.  Typically, if you’re building new your porch floor is formed out of a concrete slab, you need to put a foundation wall under it anyway, so why not put this area to good use?  Even if you can’t deal with (or don’t want to deal with) traditional root cellaring (storing vegetables and fruit), you could use the space as a wine cellar, gun cabinet, place to brew beer, a battery room for your PV/Wind system or simply more storage.  I highly recommend including a root cellar as part of your emergency preparedness planning if you can, as it’s a great low-cost, no-energy way to store food and extend the shelf life of fresh produce. Continue reading »

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Sep 022010
 

Plum Preserves with Honey and Cardamom @ Common Sense Homesteading

This year I’m experimenting with using less refined sugars, so I thought I’d try sweetening a plum jam with honey.  I wanted to incorporate cardamom, too, as I felt the flavor would complement the plums.  A quick internet search came up with “Honey Plum Preserve” on Foodbuzz.  I’ll share the recipe here, along with my own notes. Continue reading »

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Sep 022010
 
pickles in jars

My early attempts at dill pickles were not very successful.  I followed the FDA guidelines from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, and ended up with tasty pickles with absolutely no crunch.  I love my Blue Book, but these were not the pickles I was looking for.  As I understand it, many commercial manufacturers add alum (basically aluminum) to give their pickles crunch.  Needless to say, I wasn’t going that direction.

Enter my neighbor Betty.  Betty and I have swapped a lot of produce and recipes over the years, and this is one my favorites:

Betty’s Open Jar Pickles

  • 9 cups water
  • 1 ½ cup vinegar
  • 1/3 cup salt (Do not use salt with iodine, it will give the pickles a brown tint, Real Salt also gives a slight brown tint, canning salt works best)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Dill, 2-3 stalks
  • 2-4 inch long cucumbers, enough to fill a gallon jar

Directions
Combine the water, vinegar, salt and sugar and boil one minute. Cool slightly.  I used Real Salt for this batch, and it made my brine darker than normal.

pickle brine in pot

Wash the cucumbers and cut off about 1/16”from each end.  This gets rid of some enzymes that would soften the pickles, and allows better penetration of the brine.  Pack the cucumbers in a one gallon jar with the dill.

pickles in jar

Note:  I like to curl up some of the dill in the top of the jar to pin down the cucumbers and make sure they all stay submerged in the brine.

dill in pickle jar

Pour the warm brine over the cucumbers. Let stand, loosely covered, at room temperature for three days. (Drape a towel over the jar opening or let lid sit on loosely.)   I rubber band everything, especially in fruit fly season.

covered pickles in jar

I had some extra brine and cucumbers, so I made up a couple of quart jars and added a garlic scape to each jar. (Top photo in post.)

Cover and store in refrigerator. They are ready to eat after the three days but the flavor improves after a week or two in the refrigerator.

That’s it!  No canning, no heat processing of any sort.  These pickles stay fresh and crisp tasty for months.  We’ve enjoyed them at Christmastime.  If you don’t have a lot of small cucumbers, you could cut the recipe in half, or make up a full batch of brine but process pickles by the quart and hold the reserve brine in the fridge for a couple of weeks.  Delicious!  Thanks, Betty.  I love my country neighbors!

This post has been added to Real Food Wednesday  at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

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