One of the very special things about an old house is the garden that comes with it. Our farmhouse is graced with wonderful fruit trees—some of them more than fifty years old, our neighbors tell us. The star is a gnarled old plum tree that each year bears an abundance of superb plums—more than enough for us and for the flocks of birds that also appreciate its fruit. The windfalls are enjoyed by our chickens, horses and little bulls.
A cool, gray wet summer this year meant we didn’t get much bounty from the other fruit trees or the vegetable garden. But the plum tree more than made up for that by giving us hundreds of perfect fruits. My husband has a particular love for the plum tree, it bears fruit around about his birthday in January and he sees the crop as a gift just for him. He’s very possessive of them!
Over the last few years, I’ve learned how to save the plums as jams and preserved in jars (though nothing like the perfect preserves I admire made by the experts). I freeze them too, but our electricity supply can be erratic when storms rage through our valley so I don’t like to risk too many in the freezer!
The family favorite is plums stewed with sugar, a vanilla pod and a cinnamon quill. “Make enough for the whole year, please,” demands my daughter who likes to eat them with muesli and yogurt for breakfast.
I did my best to fill her order, with hubby helping to wash and stone and cut (and snack!). But in spite of our best efforts, work and writing and everything else got in the way and I didn’t quite manage a year’s supply this time. Preserving fruit is hot, hard, time-consuming work! However there is a still a satisfying number of containers stored away in pantry and freezer. And, yes, I confess, I’m guilty of holding open the cupboard doors and gloating over them!
We have no idea what variety our plums are—we just enjoy them and hope we’ll be enjoying them for years to come…