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I’ve talked before about my love of obsession with canning and preserving.  And with harvest time just starting to take off, I thought it would be appropriate to do a #savingtheseason post series on how I’m preserving the summer bounty for colder, darker days.  I’m excited to share these recipes because I’ve taken some different preserving approaches this year — instead of making the twenty pints of jam like I’ve always done (then never use), I’m trying some unique preserves that I’ll actually eat during the rest of the year.

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I want to start this post series with one of my favorite fruits: the plum.

Plums are often overlooked in favor of their more popular cousins like peaches, nectarines, and pluots.  But there’s a regal mystique to plums that I just love.  The glaucous bloom that forms on ripe plums is like a veil curiously shrouding the fruit.  And when it’s smeared away with a tender thumb, a rich, deep purple is revealed.  The skin is then another layer hiding the plum’s jewelly, gummy, plump flesh.

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I found the loveliest of plums at the Boise Bench Market recently.  Their Italian prune plums were perfect for, well, pruning — just ripe enough to be sweet, with enough still-sour bite in the skin.  They also had some beautiful golden shiro plums, which tended to the tart end of the ripenss spectrum.  They were compact, not much bigger than the shooter in a game of marbles.  I thought they’d be ideal for experimenting with umeboshi making.  Find my recipes below.  Note that my umeboshi is still in progress — I’ll report back with the results in a few weeks!

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Prunes

Makes about half a gallon of prunes | 6-12 hours

Select ripe Italian prune plums, or any other variety of plums.  If your plums are slight too tart for your liking, even when ripe, add honey or agave to help sweeten them.  Six hours in the dehydrador will yield soft, moist prunes, which are great for chopping and adding to wintertime baked goods.  Ten to twelve hours in the dehydrator will give leathery to crunchy prunes that I like for snacking.

  • 4 lbs. Italian prune plums
  • 2 Tbsp. agave or honey (optional)
  1. Rinse plums.  Slice plums in half, along their crease, and remove the stems and seeds.
  2. Turn each half inside out to hasten drying.
  3. Toss plums in agave or honey, if using.
  4. Place plums in food dehydrator or low oven at 135°F for 6 hours (soft) to 12 hours (leathery).

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Umeboshi

Makes about 2 pints | Process takes several weeks | Adapted from Just Hungry and other readings

Umeboshi, Japanese salted pickled plums, was my favorite food as a child.  Seriously.  I ate umeboshi as a snack — people would bring back from Japan these bags of umeboshi containing little individually-wrapped packets of one green and one red umeboshi.  But over the years, I noticed the umeboshi getting sweeter, absent of that mouthwatering sourness and salty punch that I used to love.  I’ve read that many producers are adding sugar to hasten the curing process, enabling them to make — and sell — more umeboshi.  But I miss the traditional taste.  Without real ume plums to work with, I thought the tart, slightly unripe, little shiro plums might work well.  We’ll see.  Here’s what I’m doing.

  • 1 lb. shiro plums, or another variety small and underripe
  • 3/4 C vodka
  • 10-20% plums’ weight in Kosher salt (for 1 lb. plums, you’ll need ~1/4 C Kosher salt)
  1. Thoroughly rinse plums and remove stems by twisting them off, being careful not to rip the skin and expose the flesh.  Do not use any plums with exposed flesh or blemishes for umeboshi.
  2. Soak plums in vodka for a couple of minutes to kill bacteria.
  3. Fill a sterilized pickling container with some of the salt, then the plums, then another layer of salt.
  4. Add a weight to press down on the plums.  The weight should be about half the original weight of the plums (i.e. 1/2 lb).
  5. Cover the container securely, though it need not be air-tight.  Place container in a cool, dark place.
  6. After 1-2 weeks, the plums should be completely submerged in liquid.  If not, increase the amount of weight slightly.
  7. Once the liquid is about an inch higher than the level of the plums, decrease the weight until there is a stretch of dry, sunny days.
  8. Place plums in a single layer on a drying rack and let them dry in the sun for 3 days or until soft and wrinkly.  Reserve the liquid for pickling other vegetables or fruits.

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