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Sand plum season is here in Oklahoma

Sherrel Jones shares tips and recipes for Oklahoma sand plums.
BY SHERREL JONES, Published: July 23, 2014

Oklahoma sand plum jelly is a sweet taste of summer that practically melts into a syrup on hot biscuits, but with a flavor all its own.

I like to think our sand plum jelly is different from other states’ wild plum jelly because ours grows out of the red dirt and often comes from close to home.

My friend Sally Phillips, of Enid, and her 9-year-old granddaughter Brooklyn picked their sand plums on land they own near the Gloss Mountains. When she called me recently to ask about recipes, I referred her to my old standby from the “Stir-Ups Cookbook” published by the Junior Welfare League, of Enid, more than 30 years ago.

I’ve picked plums from the thickets on the east side of Lake Murray in southern Oklahoma and from rolling prairie sand hills north of Enid. One key to success I learned from jelly makers is in the gathering of the plums. Sure we love those big red juicy plums, but it is important to incorporate some less ripe plums when making jelly to help it gel. If you use only ripe plums, you might end up with sand plum syrup.

Got sand plum syrup? No problem. Pour it over pancakes and waffles, add it to a marinade or barbecue sauce, or combine it with equal amounts of butter and baste your Thanksgiving turkey for a plum wonderful sweet, golden-crusted finish.

I like to put jelly in half-pint or 8-ounce jars and finish them in a boiling water bath to seal that sand plum essence safely inside. The small jars are easy to store and bring to the table.

Don’t be scared off by the instructions for sterilizing. I find the liquid pectin dissolves a little easier than the powdered version. Inside the packages, you’ll find specific instructions for making jelly or jams.

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Sand plum pointers

Read all canning instructions inside the pectin package before beginning the process. Manufacturers may change formulas over time, so juice and sugar ratios can change.

Plums can continue to ripen after picking, so use them immediately, refrigerate or wash and freeze.

To wash plums, submerge in water so loose stems and debris float to surface.

It is not necessary to pit or peel plums to extract juice. Peeling adds to color and flavor of jelly. Use a large nonreactive or stainless steel pot.

To process plums, use about 1 cup of water per pound of plums or at most add water no deeper than tops of plums. Too much water can dilute the intensity of flavor and keep jelly from setting up.

Heat over medium high heat until skins pop. Adjust heat to simmer for about 15 minutes.

Follow jelly recipe in exact order so that pectin followed by sugar are added in required sequence.

Be sure jars seal when preserving in recommended water bath method. Unsealed jelly can be kept in fridge.

Keep all jams and jellies refrigerated after opening.

Read more on preserving the harvest

“Preserving With Pomona’s Pectin” by Allison Carroll Duffy. This beautiful little book offers plenty of creative ways to craft and can jams, jellies, conserves and more with a low-sugar, high-flavor method. (Fair Winds Press, 2013, Beverly, Mass., $21.99)

“Putting Food By” by Janet Green, Ruth Hertzberg and Beatrice Vaughan. Be sure to get the latest edition of this classic work. It is loaded with the latest information for saving the harvest of fruits and vegetables. (Penguin Group, $15.95)


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