Okay, so I know that plums aren't technically a wild food. But there is such a thing as wild plums (Prunus nigra and Prunus americana), and they will be in season soon in the Twin Cities area! Also, I tend to lump gleaning in with foraging. ("Gleaning" is the act of harvesting leftover or second-rate fruits or vegetables from farms or gardens.) And I gleaned these plums from my friends' yard! Furthermore, domesticated plants often grow feral in fields and forests: apples, asparagus, pears, and parsnips are commonly found in the wild. Finally, I think it's silly not to take advantage of an abundant food source strictly because it isn't wild. Falling fruits abound both in urban and rural environments, and I love harvesting them, eating them, and getting other people excited about them! So here you are-- a plum recipe!
Plums make a wonderfully rich, dark chutney reminiscent of barbecue sauce. Please don't let that turn you off, though! The flavor profile is much deeper and more complex than any barbecue sauce you can get at the store. That said, this chutney is excellent served with pork or red meat. It also pairs well with mild, creamy cheeses like chèvre, brie, or cream cheese. Or serve it alongside an Indian curry, baked winter squash, or as a dip for sweet potatoes.
Makes 6 half-pints.
8 cups plums, pitted and chopped
2 cups minced white onion
2 Tbsps minced garlic
1 1/2 cups raisins
3 cups brown sugar
3 cups apple cider vinegar
Zest of 2 lemons
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp sea salt
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 Tbsp freshly grated turmeric
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground mustard seed
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients in a large non-reactive pot such as glass or stainless steel. The wider the pot, the faster the chutney will cook down; increased surface area helps the liquid evaporate. Make sure the filled pot has at least a couple inches of headroom, as it will bubble quite a lot!
Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently, stirring regularly to prevent scorching. The longer it cooks, the thicker it gets, and the more important it is to stir frequently! Towards the end you should be stirring at least once a minute. It will take several hours to reach the desired consistency, so give yourself plenty of time! I cooked mine about four hours, but your time will vary depending on your stove and pot.
You can tell it's done when it's thick and saucy, with no runny liquid. It should form a mound on a spoon, rather than running to the edges. Another way to tell is by running your spoon through the chutney along the bottom of the pot. It should form a channel rather than filling in immediately.
When the chutney is ready, fill six hot, sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Poke around in the jar with a wooden or plastic knife or narrow spatula to dislodge air bubbles. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean, damp cloth. Close jars with hot, sterilized bands and lids. Here are details on selecting and preparing jars, bands, and lids. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. This link explains the water bath canning process in detail. If you've never canned before, I recommend looking over canning basics.
Label sealed jars with contents and date. Store in a cool, dark place for up to a year. Refrigerate after opening.
Chutneys taste best after maturing for three months. However, if you decide to eat it sooner, be sure to open the jar and let it air out for at least a half hour before consuming.
So maybe this post is a bit of a departure from my others, in that it's not strictly about a wild food. But fruit season is here! Plums, pears, apples, apricots, and more are currently ripening, or have already reached their peak. It's not that hard to find a place where you can harvest them for free; either from a friend or neighbor who can't use them all, or growing feral in a field or wooded area. I encourage you to go explore!