Well, there I stood, picking away at the mess in my colander. I had boiled the plums as the recipe said, and then strained them through a colander to get the pits out, as the recipe had said. The trouble was that a good deal of plum was left with the pits and it was impossible to separate them, although I was trying.
Miss 14 came to the rescue.* She looked at the mess in my colander and at the next pan of simmering plums. Then she picked up the slotted metal spoon lying on the stove and got to work.
She skimmed some of the pits out of the simmering plum mixture, rattled them on the slotted spoon with a few flicks of her wrist, and soon had clean pits in the spoon with all the good stuff left behind in the pan. We experimented with a few more ideas and by the end of our bushel of plums had discovered the easiest way to pit plums for jam and sauce:
- Wash the plums.
- Bring to a boil at moderate heat with just enough water to prevent sticking. I used one cup of water in a large soup pan, but could have gotten by with ½ cup. Simmer until the plums are cooked.
- When the skins are beginning to split, use a hand mixer to break up all the plums. I did it right in the pan while they were simmering. Note that I used a hand-held mixer on low speed, not a hand blender.
- Take a metal slotted spoon and skim some pits out of the plum mixture. Shake the slotted spoon a bit until all the plum falls through the slots back into the pan. Usually only the clean pits will remain on the spoon. Occasionally we needed to help the process along by cleaning the plum pulp off a pit or two using another spoon. (If you need to do this too often, the plums haven’t cooked long enough.)
- Continue until you’ve gotten all of the pits out. Miss 14 was careful and precise and got them all out in record time. When it was my turn, I removed as many pits as possible, but still felt more comfortable pouring the cooked plums through a colander just to be sure they were all out. Yes, removing the pits this way takes time, but not nearly as much time as the colander method. Our method saved us hours as well as a huge amount of aggravation, to say nothing of the extra plum sauce that did not get wasted.
- Use the cooked and pitted plums in your recipe and enjoy.
In conclusion, if your recipe says to remove pits from plum sauce by pouring it through a colander or a sieve, think twice. This week we made large amounts of plum jam (14 pints, 12 ½ pints) and plum sauce (15 quarts, 10 pints), and we’ve come to the conclusion that the slotted spoon method works much better, saving time, plums, and stress.
*Miss 14 insists that I developed this method. I suppose she is right, but I didn’t believe it would work; she was the one who proved that it would, so a lot of the credit goes to her.