Looking for an urban homesteading calendar of the basics for home and beyond? Look no further than Harriet Fasenfest’s A Householder’s Guide to the Universe (Tin House Books, 2010). This poetic guide provides the street-smarts needed to shop, garden, run a household and preserve and cook food according to the season. Follow Fasenfest into her home, her garden and her kitchen to discover the concrete tools every homesteader needs for sustainable change, all organized in an easy-to-use calendar. The following excerpt on pickled plums is taken from her August chapter under, “The Kitchen.”
6 pounds firm Italian or other prune plums
1 teaspoon whole cloves
Two 3-inch cinnamon sticks, broken
4 thin slices fresh ginger
4-2/3 cups sugar
3 cups red wine vinegar
3 cups red wine
To prevent bursting, prick each plum three times with a large needle. Tie the dry spices and ginger in a spice bag or scrap of cheesecloth. Put the spices into a large nonreactive pot with the sugar, vinegar, and wine. Bring the contents to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat and simmer the mixture for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let the syrup cool for 20 minutes or more.
Put the plums into a bowl. Pour the cooled syrup over them, and let them rest at room temperature for 8–12 hours.
Drain off the syrup into a nonreactive pot, add the spice bag, and bring the syrup to a boil. Remove the pot from the heat and let the syrup cool again. Pour the cooled syrup over the plums. Again, let the plums rest in the syrup at room temperature for 8–12 hours.
Put the plums, their syrup, and the spice bag into a large nonreactive pot. Heat the plums over low heat, stirring gently, until their skins begin to crack. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the plums to quart or pint mason jars.
Boil the syrup until it is slightly thickened, and then pour it over the plums (which will have sunk in the jars somewhat), leaving a ½-inch headspace. Close the jars with two-piece caps and process the jars for 25 minutes in a boiling-water bath.
Store the cooled jars in a cool, dry, dark place for at least a month before eating the plums.
Makes 3H to 4 quarts
Reprinted with permission from A Householder's Guide to the Universe, by Harriet Fasenfest, published by Tin House Books, 2010.
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