It was last summer when I first discovered the beach plum. Walking up and down the sea paths in Truro, I found myself surrounded. Sweet, pitted fruit hung from the dunes, a mosaic of violet and green.
It was a banner year, they all said, the women who'd been making jelly all their lives. The best, perhaps, in seven years, since that last good pick at the turn of the 21st.
We gathered our buckets and boots, and tromped through the poison ivy to pick what we could. Gallon upon gallon piled up in the kitchen, until we could manage no more.
The jelly was simple: hot fruit pressed into juice, a pile of sugar, and a bit of Certo to seal the deal. We tried jam, one batch, but the pitting was too much. Jar by jar, we filled the cupboards with jelly.
This year, I'd expected the same. We'd long ago eaten our last bite of purple-stained toast, and we were ready for more. I traipsed into the dunes, bucket in hand, to find the fruit scattered, twigs bare.
There were some who managed to make do: Terri Sayre, the jelly lady of Briar Lane, and the jam shop up in Chatham picked through the scarcity to come up with a supply. But with a good row of blackberry jelly, a few jars of rosehip, and a seemingly endless rack of gift jams, we already had enough toast topping for the winter.
Still, I can't quite squelch that hankering. Luckily, the Chatham Jam & Jelly Shop is open Monday through Saturday, 10-5, with beach plum jelly for sale while supplies last. For those of you with tenacity and a few lingering berries, here's a recipe to follow.
TOMMY BRADFORD'S BEACH PLUM JELLY
Heat 8 heaping cups beach plums with 1 cup water and cook until soft. Strain through a colander (that you need cheesecloth is a lot of baloney).
Stir together 4 cups beach plum juice and 6 cups sugar in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Bring to a rolling, rolling boil and put in 1 package of Certo. Bring back to a boil and let roll for 1 minute. Take off heat and pour into sterilized jars.
Click here for more information on a Cornell University beach plum study Cape Cod Cooperative Extension Director Bill Clark participated in...