The Local Food Report: beach plum jelly

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.


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...


Anonymous said...

Fifty odd years ago I met beach plum jelly! I have never forgotten that first taste! I loved it.

Anonymous said...

Bie is no longer anymous...she is the one who "50 odd yers ago met beach plum jelly. She is now biecary@gmail.com love, H & Bie

Anonymous said...

As a fellow lover of gathering fruits from the bushes, trees, and seas, I've enjoyed your blog. I couldn't help but mention that this year's somewhat scant harvest of beach plums was put to work immediately in huge jars of vodka. Now, I'm not much for gettin' liquored up, but it was passed down to me from the grandfolks that beach plums make a beautiful vodka, and after a month I can report that it's true.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I just ran across your blog. Fun! Hard to believe I've missed it before. My mother-in-law had a pretty good beach plum year, actually. I am posting about it now.

Elspeth said...

Thanks, Marya! Good to take a peek at your blog as well...my parents live in Brunswick, and from your post I understand you were in Wellfleet for the holidays, so it seems we crossed paths and went in opposite directions!

Best wishes for the new year,


Jennifer said...

Hi again...
any idea on when beach plum season technically begins? end of august/beginning of sept if i recall. also, do you have any suggestions for the best places to pick? last time i went picking was about 6 years ago and most of the bushes were less on the public beach and more on someone’s private property. would like to avoid having to do that again if i can!

Elspeth said...

Hi Jennifer:

Let's see. I've been picking mostly at my fiance's parents' house, which is up near Ryder beach, and I think there are a few pretty good bushes near the public parking lot there. Other than that, I'd say you have to hunt along the bay side and not be afraid to pick on the side of the road. They seem to like open, disturbed environments. Hope that helps!

Oh, and the season tends to start "around Labor Day" according to most of the old timers, so we have a few weeks to go.


Jennifer said...

Thanks Elspeth -that is very helpful!

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