I recently joined a local gleaner group, the Eugene Area Gleaners:
We connect with individuals and farms to conduct gleans of leftover or unwanted produce. Half or more of all gleaning goes to Food for Lane County, our local food bank.
Here is some more information on gleaning:
An NPR program about gleaning
A local newspaper article on gleaning in Oregon
An international organization to help the needy built on the concept of gleaning
A limited wiki entry that has some good links
Gleaning group in Sacramento run by seniors
A radio and internet project about gleaning with lots of great stories and information
Recently, I helped to harvest some wonderful purple, yellow and blue plums from two separate sites. I ended up with two-5 gallon buckets of plums. At the end of a day of processing, I had four gallons of thick, silky, concentrated plum juice, two gallons of plum-aide base, a quart of plum sugar syrup and about two gallons of soft pulp for my chickens to enjoy.
First, I gave the plums a good rinse in the sink and packed them whole into the fruit-basket part of the Mehu-Liisa steam juicer.
Then, I got the water boiling in the water pan. When the water was boiling steadily (not furiously) I set the juice-kettle with the fruit-basket onto the water pan. I set the timer to thirty minutes.
This video shows how steam escapes from around the lid and other parts of the Mehu-Liisa steam juicer. This is supposed to happen. By allowing the steam to escape, it does not condense on the inside of the juicer thereby diluting the juice. This is one of the superior design attributes of the Mehu-Liisa steam juicer, putting it ahead of its competitors in efficiency.
While the steamer is processing, I gather my jars, clean and rinse them and put them in the oven at 250 degrees for twenty minutes. Also, I get out my Tattler reusable canning lids, boil them for five minutes, and then turn off the burner and let them sit in the hot water.
After thirty minutes (the alarm helps me keep track of this so I don’t boil the water dry), the fruit is reduced by one third in volume and I have about 3 quarts of juice in the kettle. I double check the water to see if I should add more. In this case, there is plenty for the final fifteen minutes of processing.
I draw the juice off into the hot, sanitized canning jars and put the Tattler lids in place. At this point, USDA recommends water-bath canning the quarts for 15 mins. Please consult your local Agricultural Extension Service website for details and instructions on water bath canning.
At the end of processing I have two gallons of juice (as well as two half-gallon jars of plum-aide base and one quart of plum simple syrup, see the recipes below). The plums have reduced from five gallons of fruit down to about one gallon of pulp that I feed my chickens (pigs love this stuff too).
The juice is thick and strong, highly flavorful and tart as I did not add any sugar. This juice will be made, throughout the year, into jelly, fruit juice spritzers and plum simple syrup for soda and cocktail use. I also will add plum juice in a ratio of 1:3 with fresh apple cider to ferment into a wonderful Apple-Plum hard cider. More on that later.
After forty-five minutes of processing, pour ½ gallon of hot water over the pulp in the fruit-basket
Allow juice to drain into the juice-kettle (about 10-15 mins.)
Draw off into hot sanitized ½ gallon canning jars, top with sanitized lids
Store this in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Open only when you will use the whole jar in a few days.
Add sugar and lemon juice to taste for a wonderful Plum Lemonade!
Plum Simple Sugar
Mix one part sugar to one part juice in a sauce pan
Bring gradually to a boil (keep an eye on this to avoid boil overs)
Boil gently for five minutes
Pour into sanitized canning jars and top with sanitized lids
Let cool and store in the refrigerator indefinitely
Use to taste in sodas (syrup and seltzer) and mixed drinks (plum margarita!)