11 July 2008
So you know how I'm constantly fuming about the amount of food waste in California? There are these dozen plum trees in my apartment complex, and they were all dropping ripe plums into the parking lot to rot. I went outside to take out the trash and ended up standing underneath the trees picking a shirtfront full of plums. Then I came inside and proceeded to turn about half of them into freezer-bound plum pulp, to be used in eventual smoothies or ice cream or maybe even homemade plum sauce.
This is not necessarily a project you want to undertake at eight on a thursday night just because you think it sounds like fun. Wait until saturday morning.
Things to get BEFORE you start, as opposed to during the process:
- an apron. I never use an apron, but it's not called "plum bloodbath" for nothing.
- a non-staining cutting board. Ha ha! Ok, just use one that's old and junky.
- a food mill, if you can possibly swing it.
- a sharp serrated knife.
You can use this same basic process for any stone fruit you might want to freeze. Different fruits will require different amounts of processing into pulp, though.
We're essentially going to skin and deseed as much fruit as possible.
First, acquire fruit. Get about double the amount of whole fruit as you want pulp. I used maybe a quart or a quart and a half of plums, which produced one 3x2x8 inch brick of pulp. Places to get large volumes of fruit: roadside farmstands, the farmer's market, or any fruit trees you might know of.
Get a large pot, maybe twice the depth of your fruit, and fill it halfway with water. Put it over high heat and bring it to a boil.
Wash all the fruit in a colander under the tap, working in batches if you need to. Take your serrated knife and cut a little cross in the skin of each plum, preferably opposite the stem end. This was hard to see on my plums, since they were only about an inch in diameter and had a stem scar to match. For most fruit, it won't be an issue. Don't worry about cutting the actual flesh of the fruit, just part the skin.
When all the fruit is cut, and the water is boiling, turn the heat down and bring the pot to a simmer. Then throw all your fruit into the pot. Leave them for thirty seconds to a minute, then drain them immediately in your colander. I have a steamer insert that I use as a colander. This was helpful since I could put it on top of the pot I'd used for boiling, and catch any dripping juice. A regular colander in the sink (or over the pot) is fine too. When you look at the fruit, you'll see that the skins have now all split and are starting to peel off of their own volition. Yay!
Let the fruit cool for a minute. Get ready for the real bloodbath: set out your cutting board, knife, food mill, and a bowl or other container for finished fruit. Put on your apron if you haven't already. Get any decent shoes off your feet too.
Pick up a plum. Hold it over your cutting board or container while you strip off the skin. It will come right off. Repeat for all plums. Try not to burn your fingers; the plums may still be hot.
Now it's time to pit the fruit. There are a couple different ways to do this. First, try picking up a plum and cutting the fruit off the pit. This step will be challenging in proportion to the slipperiness and mushiness of the fruit at this time. I swiftly discovered that it would be easier to just pull the plum apart with my bare hands, putting the pits in one pile and the squishy remains of the fruit in my container. Larger, more solid fruit will require the knife. I might even cut and pit larger fruit before the whole blanching and skinning process, depending on softness and maneuverability. Pit all the fruit.
At this stage all my plums had achieved a proper stage of pulp. I poured their juice out of the pan and over the pile of pulp, then threw the entire thing in the freezer.
If your fruit behaves better than mine, and remains in actual slices or halves after the whole process, put it through a food mill to achieve pulp. If I'd had a food mill, I would've put the whole plums in with pits and seen if it would adequately strip the flesh off the pit for me. If I were an especially gadgety person, I might even have used a cherry pitter. My plums were small! It would've worked!
Put your finished product into the freezer: that way, in the future it can't spill.
Now clean your kitchen.