For those of you who know Boulder, I’m sure you’re familiar with the intricate trail system that entwines the city in a labyrinthine maze, eventually dispersing out into the surrounding Open Space and just keeps on going, connecting communities and towns in Boulder County and beyond. Around our apartment, there are several trail systems to choose from, depending on your destination; one that I often take for a quick wrun (my walk/run routine) is the Twin Lakes trail, which winds up encircling two ponds just east of where we live. Twin Lakes also offers one of the most jaw-dropping, aria-inspiring views of the Front Range, hands down.
Fencing the Twin Lakes trail on either side is a plethora of bushes that yield a small, soft, orange-fleshed fruit. Admittedly, I ignored the fruit the first few times I traversed the trail, chalking it up to either something ornamental and completely inedible, or something edible but not worth eating. It wasn’t until Hubs reported that he saw a man picking the fruit by the bucketful that I had any interest in investigating it further. If it’s edible? I’m on it.
With a gallon Ziplock bag and a flashlight, Hubs and I set off down the trail at dusk one night to investigate the little fruits for ourselves. We stopped at the first cluster of bushes that were heavy with fruit; they were just beginning to blush, some with bright pink sides that faced the sun, and others with a still-green tint, hidden by the shade. We first sampled one to make sure we wanted to devote the time and effort to picking them. Well, OK, I say “we”; by “we”, I mean Hubs, as I anxiously looked on, reviewing the steps of the Heimlich Maneuver in my head. When his face reflected pleasant surprise, I knew we could start pickin’.
While I would love to paint a really beautiful picture for you of us picking wild fruit from a trailside bush, the sun setting behind the peaks of the Front Range, me glowing with a red bandana knotted in my hair and Hubs looking all rugged with a pair of overalls and a flannel shirt – I would be totally lying. Imagine something more along the lines of two yahoos dressed in their matching pajama pants, fleeces and Chacos, flailing about, trying to swat away the aggressively advancing mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds, while passers-by look at us with a mixture of sympathy and distaste, like we’re homeless, confused, or just insane.
With our bag half full, we trekked back to our apartment, giddy that we had just gotten well over a pound of fruit – albeit mystery fruit – for absolutely free. Now the hard part – what to do with them?
The fruits were the size of a large grape, with a pit that resembled that of a cherry, and a soft, juicy flesh that tasted a lot like a plum. I did a quick, reckless Google search to try to figure out what it was we were about to eat, but I couldn’t find a thing, so we dubbed them “bush plums”. I thought they would make a lovely fruit butter: a kind of thick, spiced spread to put on toast, bagels and whatnot.
I gave them a good rinse to get off any goop and, um, bird poop, and then began to pit them one by one. Lucky for me, I was streaming Take Home Chef the entire time, so I had plenty of nice scenery (Hi, Curtis!) to distract me from the fact that I was hand-pitting over 100 bush plums. Into the pot they went with the peel of an orange and the peel of a lemon, along with their juices, and a good amount of sugar. I let the whole thing simmer for the better part of an hour, before cooling the mixture and giving it a good whir in the food processor. The addition of heady spices like cinnamon, allspice and cloves gave the sweet, citrusy butter a definite autumn-like taste. Smeared on a piece of good bread with butter, the slightly wild flavor gives you the feeling of being in the Swiss Family Robinson tree house, eating exotic fruits and lounging in a hammock. Well, not at all, actually. I just like the visual. Enjoy!
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1 1/2 pounds of plums, pitted and chopped into 1″ chunks
1 orange, peeled and juiced
1 lemon, peeled and juiced
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
In a large pot, combine the plums, orange peel, orange juice, lemon peel, lemon juice and sugar over medium heat, and stirring to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce the heat to low, simmering for about 45 minutes, until the plums have almost completely broken down. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
Pour the mixture into the bowl of a food processor and add the cinnamon, allspice, cloves and ground ginger, and run the processor until the mixture is almost smooth, with only fine chunks remaining. Store the plum butter in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to a month.
* If the above slideshow doesn’t load, you can view all the photos from this recipe on Flickr.
Laura is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. She was born and raised in Fayetteville, but has recently moved to Boulder, Colorado. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and avid cook. For more from Laura, see her past stories, visit Flyer Foodie on Facebook or check out Prana & Pie.