Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Fruits of Labour!

These plums are the fruits of labour. Pick them, and you are committing yourself to some hard labour!

The plum tree in the compound didn't fruit at all last year because of the terrible drought. It was a loss - there was no plum jelly on the table.

This year the tree has put out its best. You'd hardly think this little guy was up to it, looking at the size and shape. It's in a dark corner of the garden, leaning on the garage wall.

The first time the tree fruited, we thought we could eat the plums as they were. They were small, but looked rich and luscious. One bite was enough to put us off. They werent just sour, they were bitter.

Those days the old Bawarchi (cook) Lakshman Singh Pradhan - but we never called him that; he liked the title Bawarchi - was alive. He was the last of the old-timers: a man who could cook several kinds of cuisine and could bake beautifully as well. I asked Bawarchi if we could make jam with the plums since they were so sour, and he said it wouldn't be possible.

Before I could argue, he said we could make jelly but not jam. I realised that he was a man of superior knowledge. He explained that he would stew the fruit whole, then strain the liquid into a cloth bag and collect the slow drippings. He would then take an equal weight of sugar, and boil it with the liquid till it reached setting point. So our first batch of plum jelly - not jam - was made by Bawarchi himself.

Boiling the fruit

In the bag. Govind is securing newspaper around it to keep the ever present 'poka'(insects) away.

In spite of the sweltering weather, we've been pickling and preserving fruits as if they're going out of fashion.

From left: Plum Jelly, Sweet Lime(Mausammi) Marmalade, Marwari Mango Pickle, Avakkai Mango Pickle.