‎"...a little 'trouty', but quite good" ~ Eve Kendall, North By Northwest

Sunday, August 29, 2010

learning the ancient ways and staining pretty much my entire kitchen in the process

Don't distract me, I'm making jelly.

On my stove, right this minute, is a pot of simmering beach plums. I cannot tell you what a miracle this is. But first I should tell you what a beach plum is.

I don't know what a beach plum is. On our way to go pick them I said to Sugarplum, "if someone threw a beach plum at me, hitting me in the head with it, I wouldn't know it was a beach plum." She was quiet a minute before asking "why would someone do that?"

It's good sometimes to have these conversations, if only to assure us she's not the product of agamogenesis. Her sense of humor comes from Chris' side of the family.

Beach Plum Jelly. Cape Cod is known for its cranberries because no one will give up the location of the plums. Notice the lack of landmarks in the photo. I had to have it certified and run through an anti-4square processor before posting it. I was practically blindfolded and driven to go pick them but everyone knows I can't remember squat these days and am directionally disinclined anyway.

If you are hit in the head with something about the size of a concord grape that looks like that thing in the photo, you've been struck by a beach plum.

Even if you can find the silly things, you can't just go and make the jelly. It doesn't work that way. Someone has to teach you. The directions I was sent home with today? They're not what we did in my friend's mom's kitchen. They print the recipe in the newspaper. They cut the recipe out of the newspaper. They put the recipe on the counter. And then they do something entirely different from what's in the recipe.

I don't know how I made the cut, but if someone asks if you want to pick beach plums and make jelly, you cancel your vacation plans and go. And take your minion so you can pick a lot in a short amount of time. Lord knows when you'll be allowed near these bushes (trees?) again.

We picked so furiously there may be a baby bird in here somewhere.

These are yummy, by the way. I always thought beach plums were something you couldn't eat until you had stewed them for 48 hours with an entire bag of sugar. Like rose hips. "Beach plum" sounds like a euphemism for something, doesn't it? New Englanders are good with such trickery.

When you cook them down according to nothing you'll find in the paper, they make the most beautiful juice you've ever seen. Crayola should make a crayon called Beach Plum Jelly Juice. It's that pretty. I think I will dye my children that color in the morning so I can love them even more.

One step, the one I'm doing now which is why I have all this time to not tell you how to make beach plum jelly, takes at least an hour. When we made jelly this afternoon with my friend's mom, I heard we had to wait an hour and said "Yay! Harbor Freeze!" She was probably counting on that and snuck in a step while I was at the harbor eating ice cream.

Again with the New England Trickery.

I'll let you know how my batch of jelly goes tonight. They sent me home with a jar from the batch we made together, so if all goes horribly wrong with mine, I'm sending it to that show on NPR that figures out such things.

Car Talk, I think.

And that's if I don't get picked up by the FBI. I sent a beach plum photo to facebook with the caption "blindfolded and taken to undisclosed location" and it didn't load for about six hours because it probably put up red flags from here to Kentucky.

That's really going to throw my mom because when she finds out I know how to make beach plum jelly I will become her very most favorite youngest daughter ever - and then when the fbi calls, thirty seconds later, she'll have to deny knowing me.

Do you see? Do you see what it does to people? It's no wonder they don't tell you where they are or what to do with them. They are trouble, I tell you.

Delicious, Crayola-colored trouble.


for a different kind of girl said...

I swear to heaven, yesterday afternoon my youngest son and I were walking home from our Fall Festival parade (the one that's held in the summer when it's 90+ degrees outside), and he stopped me to ask what the grape-like, well, not grapes hanging from a row of bushes we were passing were. Everything about the leaves to the fruit looked just like what you've pictured here. Now I want to sneak up the street under the cover of darkness to get some of those and do what I must for that recipe.

(and then hopefully not die and/or get ridiculously sick should I be horribly wrong.)

JAbel said...

I haven't had Beach Plum Jelly in years.When I first worked on the Cape I thought the rose hips from the rugosa roses were beach plums.Went most of the summer of 77 till someone set me straight and showed me real beach plums.My word is dessit as in I wish I had some Beach Plum Jelly for my ice cream for dessit.

Susan Gedutis Lindsay said...

Brilliant, Susan! Your writing!

Greg said...

Much love for this post, but not as much as for you. I shall try to find your desk this evening. ; )

Cheryl said...

Until I saw this photo, I thought the same thing that JAbel did. And my rogusa roses don't even produce the hips they're supposed to. I got screwed on that deal. Fo shizzle.

You can keep your recipe. I got recipes for things that are easy to make and I don't even use those. Hard stuff? Faggetaboudtit.

Kristin @ Going Country said...

In a very amusing coincidence, I JUST got a book from the library entitled "Well Preserved--A Jam Making Hymnal," and the author lives on Cape Cod, where she harvests various wild things and makes jam to sell at farmers markets. I would never have guessed beach plums are so small--I thought they would be like regular plums.

You should find the book and see if her recipe for beach plum jam is anything like the mysterious rite you participated in.

Lisa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan said...

Thanks everyone!
Jabel and Cheryl, I know about rosehip jelly but I still confused them.
Kristin, I love the thought of a Jam Making Hymnal. It's all pretty simple when you get down to it (although I still have no idea when rosehips are ready to pick. Maybe next year).
Who removed a comment and why? Did someone leak a super secret picking location? ARE YOU OKAY, person with deleted comment?!?

Anonymous said...

I think the term 'directionally disinclined' can be offensive to some sexes. I´d rather use 'geographically challenged'.


justmakingourway said...

Would the kids turn out the color of Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971 version, please)? Or would they be of a more purpley hue?

Was thinking of you when Earl was headed our way. Did you bring the chickens inside?

TwoBusy said...

Reading this was like having dinner with a great friend you haven't seen in a year — and discovering that everything is just as strange and wonderful as it always was.

Also, I'm now kind of hungry.

Tiny Dancer said...

They may be trouble, but it is the best jam flavor in the world! It's my daughter's comfort food! (hey maybe that's why she's so unhappy in her new digs, no beach plum jam!?) When she went to college we sent her with half a dozen jars from The General Store. At least we knew she would eat toast.

Now that I know what they look like, I wonder if I could find beach plums near my friend's house in the wilds of Truro?

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

I have striped bass and I am willing to discuss a trade.