Today I continue my series on food traditions of the Hopkinton/Westerly, RI area. What did our grandmothers and great grandmothers cook? From what I can tell, they drew heavily on foods that grew locally or even in their own back yard. My mother’s cousin Dorothy (from the Wells side of the family), remembers her mother making jelly from Beach Plums which would grow down by the water. From what I’ve read, they sound like they taste bitter, so I’m wondering what this Jelly would taste like.
First, lets talk about exactly what is a Beach Plum. For this, I’ll borrow some text from Wikipedia:
The beach plum, is a species of plum native to the East Coast of the United States, from Maine south to Maryland. … It is a deciduous shrub, in its natural sand dune habitat growing 40–80 inches high, although it can grow larger, over 13 feet tall, when cultivated in gardens. The leaves are alternate, elliptical, 1.2–2.8 inches long and 0.8–1.6 inches broad, with a sharply toothed margin. They are green on top and pale below, becoming showy red or orange in the autumn. The flowers are 0.4–0.6 inches in diameter, with five white petals and large yellow anthers. The fruit is an edible drupe 0.6–0.8 inches in diameter in the wild plant, red, yellow, blue, or nearly black.
The plant is salt-tolerant and cold-hardy. It prefers the full sun and well-drained soil. It spreads roots by putting out suckers but in coarse soil puts down a tap root. In dunes it is often partly buried in drifting sand. It blooms in mid-May and June. The fruit ripens in August and early September.
The species is endangered in Maine, where it is in serious decline due to commercial development of its beach habitats.”
Beach Plums grow on the shores of Long Island as well. My cousin Sharon did a report in grade school about cooking and included some information from my Grandmother (on the Geoghan side of my family.) She lived only a short distance from the Sound, in Mount Sinai, New York. Here is the page out of Sharon’s report that talks about Beach Plums.
Here are a few recipes for Beach Plum Jam that I found.
Beach Plum Jam
Wash beach plums. Cook in water to barely cover until soft. Strain through colander, add sugar, cup for cup, to pulp and juice. 1lbs. of lemon juice may be added if desired. Boil until drops “string out”. Delicious with all kinds of meats.
Beach Plum Jam
Makes 4 cups
- 4 cups whole beach plums
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup medium-bodied red wine, such as Merlot
Put a ceramic plate in the freezer to chill. Meanwhile, combine all ingredients in a 5- to 6-quart heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat.
Bring to a simmer so that the plums release their juices. Let cook 5 more minutes. Then pour mixture into a strainer set over a bowl, and press on the solids to extract the juice and fruit.
Return extract to heat and simmer, stirring often, 25 minutes. Reduce heat as needed to keep from boiling up. Remove the chilled plate from the freezer and spoon a small amount of jam onto it. It should thicken when it hits the cold. If it’s thick enough, stop there. If not, return the plate to the freezer and continue cooking the puree, checking it at 5-minute intervals, until it reaches the desired thickness (it should form a skin when chilled).
Pour into hot, sterilized jars to within 1/4 inch of the top, adjust lids, and process in boiling water 5 minutes. Let cool at room temperature and check seals.
Have you ever tried Beach Plum Jelly?
If so, where and who made it?
What did you think of it?
I’m in search of a recipe for the sea weed pudding I’ve heard was another dish cousin Dorothy’s mother made. If you have one stashed away in the back of a kitchen drawer, I’d love it if you could send it my way.