The tradition of picking winter plums is a long standing custom since the end of the rock rains as the plums were some of the few things to bring the survivors joy.
- Look for bunches that have a large number of plump and white buds- each bunch usually has plums in different stages of development
- from pinkish, to ripe and juicy, to ones already frosted over and swollen up
- Use combinations of hand and pole clippers to cut bunches from the mountain's face
Preparing the Plums
- Remove vines from the plums by hand
- Pick off the ripe plums, while separating the ones that are too young or to old
- Underripe: juices tend to be tart
- Ripe: juices tend to be sweet
- Overripe: juices tend to ferment while still under the fruit skin
Making Winter Juice
- Crush the plums to release and collect their juice
- Boil a large pot of a mixture, 4 parts juice to one part water
- Simmer for a time while occasionally stirring to release more juice
- Drain out the juice using a sieve
- Compost the seeds and grape skins
- Let the pot of strained juice sit overnight in a cool place
Making Winter Jelly
- Pour out the juice to find small clumps of crystals settled at the bottom of the pot
- Gently pour the juice through a strainer again
- Bring the juice to a boil while stirring constantly
- Continue boiling and stirring while heating until it's reached the gelling point
Components and tools
Winter PlumsA white skinned fruit that grows out of the shear face of the Bad Step. Its flesh is firm, juicy and purple with a single dark seed at the center. In addition to being sweet, its juice easily ferments into alcohol, even when its skin remains unbroken. As a result, the pickers would give the wild growing fruit a gentle squeeze:
- to feel the skin's tautness to determine its age
- to measure the fruit's internal pressure to determine its alcohol content
- to observe the white skin's intensity to determine it's health
Step FolkNot every step folk is able to participate in the tradition. Most live on the Bad Slopes, the Valley Steps or the Flooded Slopes. Only those on the summits, peaks and Jumps can harvest the wild growing fruit year round. But in order to meet demand, pickers oftentimes either free climb or setup a harness to harvest the ones growing onto the hard-to-reach cliff faces.
Winter WheelThere are three derivations of the one native calendar useful in measuring the times the light from the winter sun shifts.
There is also a, sort-of, joke of the winter calendar having one year, one month, one dayThe winter sun radiates a constant soft light being perfect for the fungal groves grown in the caverns for subsistence. As a means of allowing people to keep track of their days, the days are assigned names from a cyclic list of 100 day names that are chosen everyday from start to finish, then starting over again. The season of picking the winter plums occur in the last 30 days of the winter wheel. Therefore, in comparison to the Sang solar calendar, there are three winter picking seasons a year.