Thursday, September 29, 2011

Nature's Candy

Several years ago, before Steven & I were married, we would head over to Eastern Washington to visit with my aunt and uncle every fall and visit the local fruit & produce stands.  We would return from these trips with boxes of tomatoes, peaches and apples, bags of onions and smaller quantities of fresh bell peppers, cucumbers or whatever looked good the day we were at the market.  My mother-in-law would can the tomatoes and peaches and we'd split the apples and onions with them and just enjoy fresh apples to munch on and an abundant supply of really good onions for our soups (French Onion is one of our favorites, I'll share the recipe later this fall), stews, sauces and casseroles all winter long. 

At that time, my Aunt Linda & Uncle Len lived on a small farm.  They had chickens & ducks, a large garden and lots of fruit trees.  Amongst their fruit trees were Italian Plum trees and they would dehydrate their harvest, then vacuum pack the dried plums in jars.  They shared some with us on one of our visits and the dried plums became an instant favorite of ours.  The dehydrating process, as many of you are probably aware of, concentrates the natural sugars in the fruit and seals it inside, resulting in something Steven & I like to refer to as Nature's Candy! 

So it's no wonder that once we were ready to plant fruit trees of our own, we agreed we must have at least one Italian Plum tree.  We planted several apple trees, a pear tree, a cherry tree, several hazelnut trees, a couple almond trees and a couple other fruit trees (that never produced  thing).  For years, our apple & hazelnut trees have been our main producers, but the plum tree has been producing more & more plums as it has matured and this year we've hit the proverbial mother lode!  Our youngest niece-daughter, Amanda, started picking the plums last weekend and we have been wasting no time in splitting them open, removing the pits and putting them right into the dehydrator.  As of this morning, we have now filled our dehydrator with plums 3 times - we're talking 6 layers of trays folks - and we still have enough plums to fill it at least once more - probably twice! 

These plums are so small - most are about the size cherry tomatoes - that we've really only eaten them by the handful and/or dried them.  I would like to know if anyone out there has ever canned Italian plums or made preserves from them? 

If you have the opportunity, definitely pick up some Italian Plums and make Nature's Candy, I'm sure you'll fall in love too!

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