Friday, January 24, 2014

Plumtious beauties

We have, here in Lalor, what's known as Enough Plums. Plumtasm '14 started a couple of weeks ago in Heidelberg, where my friend Kim's plum tree was pendulous and pregnant with 55kg of blood plums. Kim and I have been negotiating plum-based transactions for three years now. She gives me twenty kilos of plums, and cooks me dinner, and shows me how her carrots have gone to seed, and permits me the slightly indecorous but wholesome pleasure of being smooched by her slobbery hound, and in return I relieve her of the gluttiest third of her plum glut. How nice of me.

She's a bit of a special tree, this plum of Kim's. The fruit are deeply red fleshed, with a purple nap of bloom on their crimson skins.

I bottled 17 serious jars of these ladies, with a splodge of honey and a cinnamon quill per jar, and put the rest in the freezer. Then I and my cohabitator went for a walk along the Venetian canal of the northern suburbs – Henderson's Drain Trail – and found a blood plum groaning with hundreds of fruit. Groaning right over the back of someone's fence, in fact. Plums were rotting on the ground and That Will Not Do (oh no sirree), so we salvaged a bag of them. Just what we needed, three kilos of iddly little plums, bigger than cherry plums but smaller than Kim's, on the eve of the heatwave.

And so this ...

Plumjam. Plumjum. Having jarred a year's supply of plamjam, I have this to say: if following Eugenia Bone's plum jam recipe in her otherwise excellent book about jam and stuff, do not believe her when she recommends chucking your un-de-pipped plums into the pot, trusting the pips to rise to the surface so that you can "fish them out with a slotted spoon". Those babies rise all right, but they're the colour of plum jam and nigh impossible to spot. I fished and I fished, with a slotted spoon no less, and each time I thought I'd fished enough, and prodded at the bubbling jam just to be sure, the slotted spoon would collide with another plum stone. There may well be plum stones lurking in the jars to this day. Someone could break a tooth, I tell you.

We still had a freezer full of Kim's plums, which Sidekick Tim, as is his wont, decided to commandeer for the purposes of plum melomel. Melomel, a mead containing fruit, is an excellent solution to both a plum glut and a honey glut. Tim juiced the plums (easy after they've been frozen because the freezing and thawing breaks down the cells) and chucked the plum juice with honey and a hunk of ginger into a 5L demijohn. Then wine yeast and organic raisins (Tim's preferred low-tech yeast nutrient).

The plum melomel is fermenting like a herd of wildebeests, who, as you know, are renowned for their fermentability. Srsly. There's a lot of carbo-alco-dioxide action going on in this here vessel.

Photo suspiciously fuzzy. Almost as if I'd had a wee tipple or seven.

There, you might suppose, our antics with plums had ended, but it turns out we have a plum tree in the backyard. I should know this, because I planted her myself in 2011. She's a Japanese plum, the 'Luisa' cultivar, which means a yellowish skin with a red blush, and sweet super-juicy yellow flesh.

My finger gives you some idea of how enormous these fruit are. Eating a Luisa is like eating two plums, or three. They've been looking more like mangos than plums (all the more so because they're more ovoid than spherical). Last Summer, we had hundreds and hundreds of blossom set, but the little plumlets grew to a centimetre or so and dropped off. Probly the drought, and my stinginess with water. This Summer is the first time we've had plums come to fruition, and oh my there are a lot of them.



  1. No no no no no. I boiled the water with a pinch of yeast slurry - nutrient. At the end of the boil I added grated ginger and stirred (to kill of any wild yeast on its skin and get its flavour into the water). I cooled the water down to 50 degrees C, added to the plum juice, and then added the honey. Scatter of raisins into the fermenter with the rest, more yeast nutrient.

    And we agreed if I wouldn't talk about the fermenting wildebeests incident you wouldn't either....

  2. Thanks for the clarification, amazing mazer.