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Recreating Lula Viola’s wild plum jelly

July 19, 2014

Wild plums

Making wild plum juice

Straining wild plum juice

Wild plum juice

Lula Viola's Wild Plum Jelly

I never met my great-grandmother, Lula Viola Green, but I know exactly three things about her: she had wasps in her attic, she got struck by lightning while washing the dishes during a thunderstorm, and she made amazing red plum jelly with the fruit from her plum tree.  For as long as I can remember, even before I ever showed an interest in canning, my mother has waxed nostalgic about her grandma’s red plum jelly.  This year, she finally got a hold of some wild plums and asked me to try making it.

I was a bit nervous going into this project.  Nobody has Grandma Green’s recipe for red plum jelly, so I was kind of flying blind.  I used the method for plum jelly in the Ball Blue Book (juice strained from fresh plums + powdered pectin + a crap ton of sugar).  There was so much sugar, I was worried the whole thing would be way too sweet — but actually, wild plums are extremely tart, so the jelly ended up just tasting of pure plummy goodness.  I’m not sure why jelly has a reputation of being fussy.  For me, it was a lot more fun than jam.  Maybe because I didn’t have to worry about peeling or pitting the plums (it all got strained out in the cheesecloth), or because it was easier to split the work over two days (I made the juice on Thursday afternoon, then cooked the jelly & canned it this morning).

Cooling on my kitchen counter, these jars sparkle like rubies in the sunlight.  I’m going to be sad to give them away, but I think I made enough to keep a couple jars for myself.  When my mom slathers this wild plum jelly on a buttermilk biscuit or piece of toast, I hope she’s transported back to her grandma’s kitchen table in northwest Arkansas.  And someday, I hope my great-grandchildren will invite my ghost into their kitchens to sit and cook for a spell.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2014 6:38 am

    Your jelly is very pretty. I bet it is delicious. I do love desserts with plums. I have made lots of jam but never jelly because I thought it did seam like more work than jam. And while I love canning jam I am always a little (or a lot) exhausted after especially since I usually start the process by picking the fruit with my kids in the morning. How special to make something your great grandmother made. My paternal grandmother died when I was 6 or 7. My dad has told me that she made pickalilli so I would like to try that someday So far the only canning have done is fruit but I would love to venture into vegetable territory.

    • whitney marie permalink*
      July 21, 2014 8:58 am

      Thanks! My mom’s friend picked these plums, and then she froze them so they’d still be fresh by the time I was ready to make the jelly. I don’t know if that would work for most canning, but for jelly it actually seemed to help, I think, because the plums were very juicy when I thawed them out to make the plum juice, like the freezing had already done some of the work of breaking them down. It did feel really special making something that my great-grandmother used to make, especially since I never met her (she died the year I was born). I’ve never tried pickalilli, but I like the name! 🙂

      • July 22, 2014 11:43 am

        Me too! Thanks for your comment on my blog. I don’t know how to reply to comments on mine (other than email but you are a “no-reply blogger” on the comment so I can’t . I love how portable and quaint EPP is. Sometimes I don’t have the energy to get my sewing machine out and on the kitchen table. Like in most of June and July. I’m looking forward to see what you make. You have the best taste!

      • whitney marie permalink*
        July 22, 2014 12:32 pm

        Huh, that’s so weird! I wonder how I change that no-reply blogger thing? Maybe it’s because I comment using OpenID with my WordPress account, instead of commenting with my Google account? So glad to know I’m not the only one who sews at the kitchen table! 🙂 I’d love to have a dedicated sewing space, and hopefully someday we’ll get enough projects done around the house that I can find a little space to put a sewing table (the craft room is no longer happening — bummer!! but it’s for a good reason). Mostly I’m excited about trying EPP because I love having something to do with my hands while we watch TV, and I’m just kind of tired of knitting right now. I’d really like to try making a giant quilt like the one my parents used to have, although I’ll probably make a pillow first.

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