Sunday, September 13, 2009


I think it can officially be said that I am a "Mad Canner", as my aunt would say. I just finished putting up five half pints of plum preserves.

It's a herculean task for me to make weekly trips to the farmer's market and see all of the beautiful produce that is in season and to NOT think wildly about how I'd love to savor it. This weekend I fell head-over-heels for some adorable local Stanley Plums from Backyard Orchards at the Hyde Park Farmer's Market.

I'm pretty clueless when it comes to types of plums and what holds up better when canning. I bought about 2 lbs of the Stanley Plums, which were the only kind available today. These little guys were about the size and shape of an egg and a beautiful dusky purple hue. The flesh was a surprisingly golden yellow color.

I'm working on mastering the art of finding the "gel point" for jams. Very tricky. Basically you cook the fruit and sugar slowly first, and then quickly at a hard rolling boil until it reaches the "gel point" where the liquid sheets off of a spoon instead of dripping like water. It's important to master this art if you want to have jams and preserves that are not too runny yet not so solid that they won't spread. I think that's the hardest part for me when it comes to canning jams - getting that consistency just right.

After boiling the diced plums for a while, the purple skins infused the jam with a lush deep magenta color. Since the batch was not a huge one, I used my special "fancy" Ball jars that I've been saving:

I have to say I think I like the old fashioned quilted Ball jam/jelly jars the best. I love the rustic look and it's easier to get the nectar out of every last nook and cranny.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Black Krim

After months of patient waiting - waiting for the sun to burn hot and for the squirrels to stop pilfering - I have finally had the pleasure of picking my first (and perhaps only) Black Krim tomato.

Aside from a handful of Gold Nuggets and Black Cherries, I haven't had any other luck with my larger tomato plants this season. The weather hasn't been quite hot and sunny enough, and more importantly, animals have eaten every large tomato while it's still green. I had 10-15 nice large Pink Brandywines, Green Zebras, and Black Krims, but they were all eaten before they even started to ripen.

By some stroke of luck, this single Black Krim was allowed to soak up the sun and finally turn the characteristic rusty burnt orange with green hips. While it was only about the size of a tennis ball, I treasured all 3 or 4 bites. I have never had a tomato that tasted so smokey. I swore to my husband that someone had snuck some bacon in there somewhere. It would be killer on a faux BLT sandwich. Absolutely delicious.

Along with Black Krim, I also picked a handful of assorted cherries tonight. Quite a pretty rainbow, Mother Nature - the colors of late summer.

I'm at the point where I'm starting to plan what tomato varieties I'd like to grow next year, along with HOW I'd like to grow them. In other words, I'm going to need to animal-proof my containers with some sort of netting or fencing.

Black Krim is definitely a keeper in the taste department. I'm also very fond of the Black Cherries. The Gold Nuggets were very good, but a little too mild and low-acid for my taste. I like a tomato that has some bite, some tartness, paired with a sweet juiciness. I would like to give Green Zebras another chance, this time varmint-free.

My mom bought me a tomato "dictionary" a few weeks ago and I've been greedily reading through with visions dancing in my head.

Still plenty of time left to plan while this year's garden is starting to wind down.