Sand plums grow wild on our ranch, and almost every year, we make wild plum jelly. Some years we have a large plum harvest, and other years we barely have enough to can a few jars. The weather plays a big part in how many plums we harvest, and we have to compete with the animals who live on the ranch that enjoy the ripe plums, too.
The plums vary in size and color. The best ones are the size of a small cherry and are a deep red. Those are the ones that are sweet and juicy. The smaller and more yellow plums are quite tart. The sweet ones are great eaten fresh off the tree, but the tart ones still are amazing in jelly.
Picking sand plums is an uncomfortable chore. The trees are bushy and packed closely together, often with the best plums hidden in the middle of the thicket. Picking season is usually hot with temperatures reaching well over 100°F during the day, and the spiders, snakes, and insects that use the trees as shelter are usually not thrilled to have human company. Wild plum jelly is such a treat, though, that we brave all of that for another batch that will hopefully last us until the following year.
This year, most of the plums were too small to work with. We were able to pick enough to make 10 jars of jelly. Considering that during drought years we sometimes don’t have any plums at all, this is enough to make us happy.
Canning is something I want to explore in depth later on. I’ve done a lot of research about canning during WWII. I want to include some of that research here, but today I want to just share our most recent canning project.
I collect WWII propaganda posters, and this is one of my favorites. I like how canning ties us to generations of people who canned before us. I remember spending days at my grandma’s house when I was young while my mom, aunts, and grandma canned vegetables they grew in their gardens. My grandma had a closet in her basement that was lined with cans of all sorts of fruits and vegetables. Women in World War II canned foods from their Victory Gardens, often with the help of other women in their communities. These threads that tie us all together are important parts of who we are today.
Do you can? What foods do you can? We enjoy jelly and salsa, and are branching out to include more things in the future. I’ll round up some canning recipes for later in the year when many folks are harvesting their garden crops and preparing to can them for the months that follow.
I’ll see you here Monday. Right now, I am off to eat some more of this delicious jelly.