Ahh the blooms on the wild Mexican Plum tree. They bloom in early spring, and we have to worry our heads off over a late freeze and the spring storms that tend to roll through, taking all the blooms off. We are lucky enough to have two trees growing wild in our yard.
The plums are generally ripe in mid to late September. The Mexican Plum is not a Sand Plum, they ripen earlier in the year and have a smooth leaf, whereas the Mexican Plum has a fuzzy one. Pa is really the one to ask though, he knows all about them. What do I know? Well, how to make Pa’s favorite jelly, of course. It’s a lot of hard work, I tell ya. Poor ole Ma’s arm is generally dead after juicing all them plums. Sadly, last year we only got a handful of plums, not near enough to shake a stick at. This year we are not sure what happened, but it doesn’t look as though we will be harvesting any. Two years ago, however, we had a bumper crop. I juiced all of them that I could, I near thought my arm might fall right off. I took all that wonderful juice and froze it on up all measured out and ready to make a batch of jelly per gallon Ziploc freezer bag.
When I need to make a batch of jelly, I pull me a bag out and get busy. I am never patient enough to just let the juice thaw, I cut that bag right off and plop it right into my jelly makin pot.
Now, because I want everything to go smoothly, I go ahead and get my pectin open and ready to pour. I also get my sugar all measured out ready to go in the pot when the time is right.
Whenever I am in the kitchen, Merle always has to be right behind me. I admit sometimes it is a bit unnerving, but I know he is just there to make sure I am doing it all right. I’m fairly sure Pa has put him up to it.
When you start with frozen juice, it is important to stir, stir, stir. If you do not, then that juice will scorch to the bottom of your pot. Yes, I speak from experience. Also, you want that juice warm, not boiling hot, but warm BEFORE you add that pectin. If you try to add the pectin when the juice is still cold, the pectin will clump up and never completely dissolve. Again, I speak from experience. Add the pectin and stir, stir, stir.
See that steam rising there? Well, let me tell you it is hot, and will burn you if you hold your hand over the pot too long in one place. So be sure to stir, stir, stir. Keep on a stirring until the juice and pectin come to a boil. Then it is time for a little magic.
Once that juice and pectin comes to a boil, it is now time to add all that sugary goodness. Be sure to stir, stir, stir.
That’s a little sugar, huh? Well, now the stirring is really important. Stir, stir, stir until it all dissolves, and then the magic is revealed.
Just look at the clear pretty color! Oh man, I love it when that happens. At this point, you will need to, you guessed it – stir, stir, stir! Keep on a stirring that jelly until it comes to a boil.
Once it comes to a boil, set your timer for exactly one minute. Guess what you do now? Yep, you got it… stir, stir, stir until that timer goes off. Then turn the heat off and remove that pot from the burner. You can finally stop stirring. Whew!
Now, you wanna take a spoon and get as much of that foam off the top as you can.
I have made enough of this jelly that I know I will get exactly nine jelly jars full per batch. I get them all out of the dishwasher where I keep them hot by setting it to heated dry. If a dishwasher will sterilize baby bottles, then it will sterilize my canning jars as well. That there blue handled ladle is my favorite jelly dipping spoon. I get everything all set up and ready to go.
Then I start filling them jars. You will see the ones there that I have already filled still have a bit of foam on them. I use a teaspoon once they are all poured, and scoop it out. I find that works better with this jelly in the end.
Now, if you have never made jelly, it is important to carefully wipe the rim off with a nice clean dishcloth. The jars will not properly seal if there is any jelly residue left on the rim.
Then I pull nine lids out of the dishwasher, which is still on heated dry to keep them nice and hot.
Back to the dishwasher for the rings, which I screw down tight on the jars, making sure to keep the lids centered on the jar.
Now with jelly, you can do a water bath to seal the jars, and some just turn the jar upside down on a kitchen towel to cool. I was given a tip a couple of years ago, to just put them right back in the dishwasher and run them through a quick cycle.
Just look at that beautiful, clear jelly! Pa absolutely loves this jelly. One of his favorite uses is on a grilled cheese sammich. But he will eat it on toast, biscuits, mixed in oatmeal, or just a spoon straight out of the jar.
Just in case you wondered, Merle is still there, right behind where I stand to stir, stir, stir.
Be sure to check back, I see much more jelly makin in my near future.
And with that, I’m off!