My beautiful but rapidly ripening Italian prune plums were calling to me. "Use us or lose us!" they pleaded. There was a partial box of prune plums from CostCo and 5 or 6 random homegrown plums that someone gave us. With some difficulty, I pitted all the plums I had (almost 4 lbs.), and made a huge mess in the process. These are definitely not freestone plums (klingon is more like it). Thinking there's got to be an easier way to pit them, I spied my melon-baller* in the dish rack (recently used to core pears with). It worked surprisingly well. I wish I'd thought of it earlier. Less mess.
Notes: I used my enameled cast iron dutch oven for both rounds of cooking (washing it out in between). Put the cooked plums through the food mill (with the fine screen), and came up with 5 cups of plum pureé. Cooked it with 5 cups of sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly for approximately 40-45 minutes. Checked reduction periodically by using the "dip-stick/watermark" method. Toward the end, I switched to the "dripping/sheeting" method for checking the jelling progress. I noticed toward the end of the cook time, that when I stopped stirring to test it, an area on the surface began to look dull. I took that as a sure sign of doneness and poured it into my aluminum pot-luck cake pan that was lined with 2 pieces of parchment paper, criss-crossed. There it sits. When it's cooled off, I'll put the lid on it and place it somewhere out of the way for 48 hours.
Notes (8/18/09): Should have just made plum jelly in the first place, because that's pretty much what I ended up with. It never set up sufficiently to hold its shape after cutting it into squares. Clearly I didn't cook it long enough. If I recook it, then process it in jars this time, it will make really tasty jam and will keep longer too. And really, doesn't homemade plum jam in the middle of winter sound so much better than plum paste in August?
*Many people shun the melon-baller as a quaint vintage throwback, an out of date uni-tasker, a waste of drawer space. Not me. I'll admit that I first got it because, "Mom had one in her kitchen, so I must need one". But that little gadget gets a lot of use around here, and it usually ain't for making melon balls.
Pâte de Fruit: French, meaning literally "dough of fruit". Used to describe jellied fruit candy or fruit paste. Pronounced "pah de fwee" or "pat a fwee". Note that ease of pronunciation does not guarantee success in execution.