Stone Fruit With Separation Anxiety
July 8, 2024 5:09 AM   Subscribe

I have a whole lot of plums I'd like to make jam out of. However, they're a clingstone plum that is really, REALLY clingy. Please give me your best tips for separating fruit from the pit!

My community garden has a plum tree that's going BONKERS this season. I have a plot directly under it, and I've been picking the plums on the branches just over my plot so they don't fall down into it (as much). I have about two pounds of plums in my fridge already, and there are way more to come, I can see. So I have a lot of plums I'd like to do something with, and more on the way.

The only problem is that these plums are really stubborn clingstone plums. I've tried cutting these ones up into wedges before, and I end up with some thin wedges of plum skin and a pit with most of the fruit on it. Googling this problem suggests to change the way you cut it (cut along the equator and twist to halve the plum first), but that doesn't work either.

Fortunately the things I want to do with them don't require intact fruit - I wanted to make jam, and then some ice cream. So I don't need intact wedges. But I do need to get most of the plum off the pit first in both cases, and ideally I need to do that before cooking (most jam recipes say to weigh the fruit minus the pit and add an equal amount of sugar). So - help?
posted by EmpressCallipygos to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Googling this problem suggests to change the way you cut it (cut along the equator and twist to halve the plum first), but that doesn't work either.

This is my first step with all my stone fruit. What exactly is happening when you do this?

My process is:
Cut in half around the pit, not at the equator but longitudinally, and twist. This creates one half with a pit and one half without a pit. (If fruit is super ripe, the halves are going to be soft and gooey.)

Then on the half that's still got the pit, I cut that in half too, and twist.

Keep doing that until Zeno's Paradox eventually wins out over the pit. Then trim off anything else with a paring knife.
posted by phunniemee at 5:16 AM on July 8

Response by poster: What exactly is happening when you do this?

When I cut it in half and twist, whether I cut it longitudinally OR at the equator, I get one half with most of the guts ripped out, and one half with the pit (which is covered with the guts of the other half).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:21 AM on July 8

Best answer: Can you weigh the fruit with the pit, then weigh the pits after cooking to aid removal, and subtract? I don't think the pits would change weight too much before/after cooking.
posted by nat at 5:25 AM on July 8 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Beachplum jam maker reporting in, concurring with nat. Beachplums are very small and mostly pit.

Wash the plums and put them on low heat in pot with a very small amount of water, lid on. The plums will soften, turn off heat and remove lid. When sufficiently cooled you can get in there with your fingers and remove all the plum stones. Then measure the pulp by volume or weight and add sugar as directed.
posted by xaryts at 5:42 AM on July 8 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: One last question and then I'll sit on hands: So, the ice cream recipe is a roasted plum recipe, where you're meant to halve the plums and then sling them in the oven a bit to soften that way. That recipe says to halve and pit them before roasting, but do you think I could just halve them and roast them that way, and fish the pits out after? (I just want to make sure that roasting with the pits wouldn't leach something poisonous out of the pits or something.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:17 AM on July 8

I've never tried this but if you have a bunch on hand, maybe try microwaving one a bit to see if it softens enough to take apart?

I too was wondering about the pits leaching. According to this answer on a pan-agricultural extension website, the seeds/kernels inside the pits have to be broken for cyanide to leach out. This page from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency similarly says kernels have to be chewed for cyanide to form. So hopefully those two sources are right and it's fine.
posted by trig at 7:04 AM on July 8

We had a clingstone blood plum tree in the back yard when I was a kid. Every year, Mum would make loads of plum stuff - canned whole plums, jams, sauces - and she never even tried to get the pits out first; just not worth the bother. Way way easier to get them out after cooking.

most jam recipes say to weigh the fruit minus the pit and add an equal amount of sugar

If you weigh one plum, then dismantle it with a paring knife, then weigh the flesh you've cut and scraped off the pit, that will give you the percentage of that plum's weight that's flesh; take that as typical for the whole batch and scale the sugar accordingly. Scales that read in grams rather than ounces will give you a more accurate percentage.

Don't worry about cyanide. The only way you'd get enough of that in your end product to make anybody ill would be if you ground the kernels to a powder and mixed them in. The only consequence of doing all the cookery with the pits left in will be to add a very subtle marzipan note that gives the flavour a bit more depth and richness.
posted by flabdablet at 7:14 AM on July 8 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Could you use a small fruit corer? You can get sets in different sizes. Might be a little wastage.
posted by Phanx at 7:17 AM on July 8

Response by poster: I'll give the fruit pitter a whirl - I found a set on USA Amazon for only five bucks, and I'm okay throwing that small amount of money at this problem.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:31 AM on July 8

Honestly, I just do stone fruit like a mango if it is clingstone rather than freestone -- slice a cheek off one side, cheek off the other side, fingers off each end. There's a level of wastage in that, but everything else is too much fuss and I can't be arsed.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:37 AM on July 8 [9 favorites]

My jam is a cooked recipe, but I boil the mirabeille plums stone-in, then push them through a colander with the aid of a wooden spoon. The pits actually aid in pushing the fruit pulp through.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 10:27 AM on July 8 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I just do stone fruit like a mango if it is clingstone rather than freestone -- slice a cheek off one side, cheek off the other side, fingers off each end.

This is what I do if the pit needs to be out before cooking.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:40 PM on July 8

My mother does one batch with the sliced off fruit and then does a second batch with the pits - the flavours are quite different because the skin is gone.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 7:19 PM on July 8

I was always taught to make jam with the pit in, to help with setting. I have no idea if that works but I've never had to add pectin to plum jam.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 9:31 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]

Just commenting to share the giggle I got about the post title. Well done. :-)
posted by Medley at 7:14 AM on July 9

Thirding (fourthing?) the 'just make jam with the pits in' - fond childhood memories of being stood on a stool with a big wooden spoon and a bowl and told to stir plum jam and fish out pits, and any pits I scooped into the bowl I could suck the jam off. Of course, in a house with 8-14 children at any given time, we had to have scrupulously timed turns at this.
The jam always turned out fine.
posted by ngaiotonga at 4:23 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Reporting in: well, in a highly ironic turn of events, it turns out that the clingy-flesh issue was actually nowhere near as much of a problem after all. I just finally got to work with my big bowl o'plums - and when I started cutting them, most of them actually were much easier to pit than I'd thought they would be. I still had the occasional plum that was clinging onto the pit like the Dickens, but most separated way more cleanly than I'd thought they would.

I think what might have helped is that before things got over-ripe, when I knew it would be a couple days before I could make jam, I'd pick through the plums on the counter and stick the riper ones in the fridge. That actually seemed to help in some cases; the colder ones were easier to separate, and so were the not-as-ripe ones. It was only the really super-ripe ones that were clingy and gooshy. I ended up doing a sort of mix of everything above - halving and twisting where I could, cutting others like a mango, and halving then re-halving and then re-halving as necessary (I had to dice everything so that was fine). But it worked, and I now have four jars of jam processing on the stove for shelf storage and two more cooling on the counter that I"m going to just stick in the fridge for right-away eating.

This bodes very well for the roast plum ice cream that's next on the list, and then the next batch of jam (because that plum tree is still going fucko bazoo).

posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:07 AM on July 10

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