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Autumn Smells Good: Wood Smoke and Plums

Making Smoked Plums

Gold and reds carpet the grass, creating more beauty than I’d ever dare ask for, a season of inner calm and woodsmoke, it can only be autumn! The trees in the orchards are preparing for their autumn harvest. The fruits of the harvest are gathered and stored. It’s been a long day of harvesting crops on this Romanian farm from Bukovina. Every fall, their big orchard, counting over a hundred apple, pears and plum trees, gathers the family together for the autumn harvest. Set in peaceful green surroundings, The orchard is home to an abundance of trees. The trees bear such a ridiculous amount of fruit in the fall, that they had to figure out how to store and preserve the bumper harvest. They acquired a little cider press and started on apple juice making. But what to do with the abundance of plums? Surely, they will make a decent amount of plum jam, compote, and tasty smoked plum dumplings, but how to preserve the rest throughout the winter so they do not go to waste? They recalled how their parents used to tackle this in the good old days: smoked plums. It was an effective way to store a whole lot of plums for a very long time.

Smoked Plums in the Kiln

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. So they made research, asked their elderly relatives and neighbors, and revived the old tradition of smoking plums. They had built a plum smoker at the edge of the orchard and set off smoking plums just like in the days of yore. All winter long, so long as the fruits ripen, the plum smoker doesn’t rest. New plums are brought in, as others have just finished smoking, and are stored away in vacuum sealing or sealed cans.

Plums Smoking

The smoking and drying process lasts about three days, depending on the size of the plums. But before harvesting, they have to make sure the plums are completely ripe and sweet. They are washed and drained and placed in the smoker. The fire must be smoldering, not in flames, or the plums will come out burnt, or, even worse, the flames can set the kiln on fire because the plum smoker is made of wood.

Smoked Plums in the Kiln

The fire must be done multiple times, depending on the size of the plums and the thickness of the layer, until the plums reach the desired consistency. If the plums are big, they will light the fire three times.

Smoking Plums

They are repeatedly flipped over during the process, to cook evenly. The temperature in the kiln rises to between 45°C and 60°C. The smoke rises from the hearth and vents through six smoke holes in the thick plate above the hearth. The smoke dries and preserves the fruit, while also giving it a unique aroma and taste, and a smoky color, matte black to dark brown. The heat dries the plums, giving them a wrinkled surface. 

Smoked Plums
Smoked plums

The amount of smoke and heat the plums are placed in should be decent because it’s easy to over smoke them, or burn them. When they are ready, they are stored away in jars or vacuum sealing. As for use, smoked plums are eaten as such, or cooked and baked: smoky plum BBQ sauces, drinks, pies, cakes, and meat/vegetable sauce. 

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