I grew up picking sandhill plums in late July. They are tart cherry-sized berries that grow on thickets in sandy areas like the countryside near my hometown. I don’t actually remember helping my mother process them or make them into jelly, but I do remember eating the jelly and giving it away as gifts to teachers and family members at Christmas.
A few years into my marriage, I became very interested in sustainable living. I started sewing, baking my own bread, and canning. It was at this time I began picking sandhill plums once again. They are pretty much free for the taking because they grow wild along roadsides. All a person needs to do is brave the tall weeds, deep ditches, and thorns.
Once you’ve picked a bucket load (one year I picked a cooler load!), you take them home and lay them out to fully ripen. Once they are fully ripe, you process them. I won’t go into all the details here, but suffice it to say, you cook them down w/ a bit of water, remove the seeds and then pulverize them and strain them. This gives you what is called “pulp.”
From here, you are ready to make jelly.
Now, here comes my disclaimer:
If you have never made jelly before, do not start here. First off, sandhill plums don’t grow everywhere, and secondly, these instructions are not that great. lol
If you are an avid jelly maker, I would highly suggest going to your local bulk food store and buying your pectin in a bulk quantity. A box of pectin contains approximately 6 TBSP. 1 batch of jelly takes 1 box of pectin. You are also going to need a massive amount of sugar…so much sugar, it will almost make you nauseous to see how much is going into it. (yes, I know there are sugar-free ways of doing this, but this entry will not be addressing that) You also need jelly jars…size and style depends on your family size and preferences. And I do a water bath, so I have a huge canning pot and the lifter tongs (I’m sure there is some technical name for them…but no matter, their job is to lift the jars from the boiling water bath.)
I do highly suggest buying 1 box of pectin. The only reason I say this is because the little insert of instructions in that box is invaluable. For sandhill plums, I use the sour plum recipe.
So, after 4.5 cups of pulp, 6 TBSP of pectin, 7 c. of sugar, and 2 minutes at a rolling boil, I pour the almost-jelly into my jars (this is where that metal funnel comes in handy!), and throw the lids on. Water bath those little guys and spend the rest of the day listening to the lids pop as they seal, only to have your children and husband beg you to pry the lid back off so they can eat some!
Mmmm! Mmmmm! And just for your information, this jelly still retains a nice tart taste to it.
So, what if you don’t have sandhill plums in your area? I would encourage you to buy a box of pectin and check out that little insert. It is utterly amazing the amount of fruit and vegetables that can be made into jelly or jam or preserves. Try something different…jalapeno jelly for instance or guava or tomato preserves. Does something grow wild in your area that you could make into something yummy for the family? I still stand amazed at all God provides that never requires a trip to the supermarket!