Monday, August 11, 2014

Wild Cherry-Plums Season: time to cook and freeze some.

Cherry-Plums In Season

Sweet Treat on Local Trees (Somerset, UK)

The summer fruit harvest continues.  Soon after my recent blog about preparing the wild blackberries harvested this year, the (apparently) wild plum trees in the area really started to hit their peak for ripening fruit. 

Fresh Cherry-Plums (halved / pitted)

I suspect these trees grew on their own (wild) since they are growing immediately along a public bike path that is carved through some varied, and otherwise rough, terrain.  As the plums were littering the paved bike trail and being turned to puree by passing bikes, I figured I might as well collect some and puree them myself at home.  So, now it is time to enjoy these fresh plums and cook some up for freezing in a very similar manner to how I prepared my blackberries for longer-term storage.

There are so many different varieties and cultivars of plums that I am not 100% sure which type of plum(s) we are harvesting — I believe these plums are all "cherry plums" of some sort.  These wild plums have been nearly perfect even without any pesticides or other treatments applied to them.  We have encountered only 2 wormy ones out of a couple thousand plums so far.

The cherry plums coloration is quite similar to some Victoria plums, but those tend to get much larger.  Whereas these plums are all 2-3 cm (an inch or so) in diameter with a very small pit, the Victorias (from what I have read) get as big as 5-6 centimeters in diameter, much more like a normal commercial plum you would see at the grocery store. 

We also have what I believe are Mirabelle plums growing wild nearby, though they were not fully ripe yet — I plan to harvest some of those in a couple more weeks. If you want to see the wide range of plums and related fruits available, check out the incredible variety of Plums, Gages, and Damsons that are offered for sale on fruit-tree dealer sites like Pomona Fruits and Orange Pippin Fruit Trees

Recipe : Simple Cooking and Freezing Process

Much like my blackberry cooking process, this plum-preparation cannot get much simpler.  I just halved the plums, pitted them, and tossed them in my trusty large stainless steel 6-quart pot with perhaps 1/2 cup of water and brought them to a boil.  After that, I reduced to a simmer and stirred every so often for an hour or so until the puree / sauce was thickened to desired state.   After that, I waited until the sauce cooled down and then froze portions of it for later use while keeping about 1/2 of the sauce in the fridge for use in my morning yogurt over the coming week (with a bit of honey and vanilla added). 
Fresh Plums : in the pot, ready to cook down

Cherry Plums (after cooking down into a puree)
I sure hope these plums return in full force next year!  I am definitely a fan of fresh plums and naturally-occurring gluten-free treats that I can use in my own recipes.  I will definitely use these in yogurt, but I also think they are going to be quite nice in my cakes, pies, and other dessert recipes (whether as a sauce / topping or whether directly in the baked goods).  Yummy!

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Fresh Blackberries : Simple Cook and Freeze Method

Extending the Fresh Blackberries Season

Blackberry Puree Ready-to-Use for Many other Recipes

This year I have been fortunate enough to encounter a bumper-crop of fresh blackberries growing wild where I live. There have been so many blackberries ripening at once that eating them all while fresh is just not possible — I can eat perhaps a quart of berries a day, but something has to be done with the remainder.

So, time to cook these berries up for simple storage (and reduced storage space in the freezer too).

The steps to this "recipe" cannot get much easier:

  1. pick berries, unless a very nice neighbor or friend donates some to your cause;
  2. rinse them off well in a colander
  3. place the berries in a nice large pot in which you can cook down a substantial batch on the stove top at once.  If you have very ripe berries, there should be no need for any additional water in the pot (to prevent burning or such), since they should have a lot of their own natural juice
  4. bring the berries up to a light boil — if your berries are as ripe as the ones I am using, your pot should have plenty of liquid in it just from mashing a large stirring-spoon through the berries a couple times.
  5. reduce the heat to a simmer and be patient — stir every so often to prevent any burning and let the batch cook down as much as you desire.  This can take an hour or more to off-steam enough liquid to thicken the mixture considerably.  
  6. Let cool and place into containers of your choosing and freeze (and, perhaps keep some in the fridge for the coming week or so) 

Fresh Blackberries ready to cook down on stove top

Although I could freeze the berries whole, I have limited freezer space and this process allows me to greatly reduce the volume of the berries.

I have kept a bunch of cleaned, used, pint (1/2 liter) size plastic yogurt containers into which I place my cooked berry sauce.

Then, I place these containers in the freezer for easy retrieval and thawing when I need blackberries for any other recipes I am planning, or simply for my morning yogurt.   I make my own flavored-yogurt by simply adding about a 1/2 cup of this cooked blackberry sauce to a cup of greek or plain yogurt, along with a bit of honey and slight bit of lemon juice (or couple drops of lemon oil).  This is the way a blackberry-yogurt should be — loaded with berries and full of flavor!

I also use this puree in some other gluten-free dessert recipes, like: cheesecakes (right in the batter), other cakes (in batter, or in the frosting, or both), berry pies (used along with some other fresh/frozen berries), my morning pancakes (in or on), and much more.

This is one of my favorite gluten-free recipes / treats that comes along during a limited season each year.   I hope you are able to find some fresh berries nearby to try this yourself.

Nicely cooked-down blackberry puree / sauce

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.