Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Gleaning Plums

We've had a pretty busy summer, and try as I might, I haven't gotten around to posting here and updating things.  For that, I apologize.  So with a little nudge from a good friend, I am starting with a new post today to share one of the things that keeps me really busy every fall.

Since moving West, it's been difficult to change my concept of harvest time.  We had a great big garden in the Midwest in which I was busy harvesting and preserving.  In the West, I haven't been in a house long enough to actually grow a garden, but we have been greatly blessed with the great outdoors and some wonderful neighbors!  One of our neighbors here, shares their fruit orchard with us after all their family and friends pick what they need first.  I often feel like the old picture of "The Gleaners" when I go to clean the trees of the leftover fruit.
Here's an excerpt explaining the picture from Wikipedia that describes the picture:

"The Gleaners is an example of Realism. It features three peasant women prominently in the foreground, stooping to glean the last scraps of a wheat harvest. Their gaze does not meet the viewer, and their faces are obscured. In the background, bountiful amounts of wheat are being stacked while a landlord overseer stands watch on the right. Millet has chosen to center the women and paint them with a greater contrast. The earthy figures blend into the color of the piece, ingraining them well into the scene. Through the misalignment of vanishing points among the three women (as drawn along the backs of the women), and in particular never aligning with the central focus of the background, Millet conveys the message that while the lowest-class women occupy the same canvas as the abundance depicted in the background, they will never be a part of that actual physical abundance—they occupy their own space layered on top of another space, in both the painting and in real life. This is a commentary on the lower classes' inaccessibility to upward mobility."

Anyway, my finds are not quite that dramatic, but I will say that with five children and one income, I am thankful to any of the extra harvest that I can get!

So, here is what I was able to pick in just a few minutes off of one broken branch at the orchard:
These are Italian Prune/Plums.  They taste wonderful and have a free stone!  I actually filled this 5 gallon pail full.

 I cut some in half, taking out the stones to freeze and then also did some in the oven to dehydrate.  We found the dehydrated version turned them a little sour, so I'm not sure I will do many more of those.  I did a search on Allrecipes.com for plum recipes and found a recipes fore plum dumplings.  I found this to be very interesting, and the fact that it could be frozen for future use, really interested me.  Although, it is a pretty lengthy process to make 125 of them, like I did, I do think it's worth it in the end!

 The first thing you do is cut the plums in half, not all the way through, to get the stone out.  Then add 1/3 tsp. of sugar into the stone cavity and place in a bowl.  This is my 100 plums ready to go.
 Next we rolled out the dough to wrap around the plums.  I had the help of my teenager, so I think that we ended up with an extra cup of flour, so had to add an extra egg yolk and a couple of tablespoons of butter to make it work.
 Here's my four inch round cut out on the left, and then I rolled it out a little more to make it a tad bigger and oblong in shape.
 I folded each oval in half over the plum and sealed the edges.  Sometimes, I used the juice from the plum to make it seal better.
 After boiling the plums in water and making a sauce for over, it make a yummy dessert. 

Here's the Recipe for the dumplings which I adapted from allrecipes.com:
Ingredients:
100 Italian Prune Plums
3/4 cup sugar
8 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 teaspoons salt
12 egg yolks
1/2 cup shortening or butter, softened

Dough:
10 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder

Sauce (for only 25 dumplings at a time):
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar

Directions:
1.  To pit the plums, slice them almost in half, open and remove pit.  (plums need to be free-stone in order to do this.)  Place about 1/3 teaspoon of sugar where the pit was and place in a bowl.  Set aside.
2.  Meanwhile, place potatoes in a large pot with water to cover.  Boil and cook until tender.  Mash potatoes with masher.  You will need 4 cups of mashed potatoes.  Set aside.
3.  For dough, make a pile of flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and mix together (this will make a big pile!)  Make a well in the center and add 4 cups mashed potatoes, egg yolks, and shortening into the well and work into the dough until it is smooth by kneaded.
4. Divide dough in half and roll out on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut into 4-inch rounds with a  biscuit cutter.  Roll each round a little more to be an oval shape.  Hold the dough in your hand and wrap around one plum, folding the dough in half and sealing the edge tightly.  Make sure there are no leaks for the plum to fall out.  Place on a cookie sheet, sprinkled with flour and freeze individually.  Once frozen, they can be added to a Ziploc bag, making sure they are covered with plenty of flour.
5.  When ready to cook, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Place the dumplings in the water and cook for 10 minutes, making sure it is cooked all the way through.
6.  Meanwhile, make the sauce by bringing the butter and brown sugar to a boil and boil for one minute.  This will caramelize as it cools off. 
7. Remove the dumplings from water with a slotted spoon and pour caramel over it to serve.  Enjoy!