When life gives you a gift of plums in this age of ‘stone fruit’ (shall I say the season), what do you do?
So a few weeks ago, I was at Sligro (our Dutch version of Wal-Mart), chatting (not complaining) about being overcharged on a string of smoked garlic bulbs I’d bought earlier. It turned out that the advertised price on the sales board was wrong – less that the current price and so I paid more.
Grumbling a bit but accepting it especially after the workers apologized for not being able to do anything about it, wishing they could, I went to get some plums. As I settled down to select some, one of the guys said…‘those plums are no good’. I disagreed because the previous day, I had bought a few from that same box that were sweet and juicy.’ Yes, I could see that some plums were overly soft but I wasn’t going for those! Next thing I know, the guys are saying, if you want, you can have the whole box for 50 cents…to make up for your garlic palaver.
I was shocked but excited! 50 cents….do you hear me right? 50 cents, for 30-40 plums! How could I refuse? My only fear was my husband would ‘yab’ (Nigerian term for ‘make fun of’) me but once I’d pushed that thought out of my mind, I walked away in ecstasy, still half-believing that when I got to the check-out, I would see that I’d been charged 50 cents per kilo as opposed to the whole box! But that was not the case, I walked through the doors…expecting to be called back to hear, ‘Sorry Miss but we made a mistake’. That again, didn’t happen and so I arrived home, glad for the opportunity to experiment, experiment, experiment!ex·per·i·ment ( k-sp r -m nt) n. 1. a. A test under controlled conditions that is made to demonstrate a known truth, examine the validity of a hypothesis, or determine the efficacy of something previously untried. b. The process of conducting such a test; experimentation. 2. An innovative act or procedure: “Democracy is only an experiment in government” (William Ralph Inge). 3. The result of experimentation: “We are not [nature's] only experiment” (R. Buckminster)
And that I did….. I must confess that this is the first season I’ve overdosed on ‘drupes’ (Fruits that have a hard stone pit surrounding their seeds, like Peaches, Nectarines and Almonds)! I’ve done everything from eat to bake to drink and think about drupes.
Plums have existed since ‘ancient’ times and boasts an astonishing number of varieties, generally classified as European, American, Japanese, Ornamental and Wild, all of various colours, shapes and sizes! One distinguishing feature between plums is the nature of the stone! Those whose flesh cling to the pits are called ‘Clingstone’ (e.g. Japanese plums) and those whose flesh don’t cling to the pits are called ‘Freestone’ (e.g. European plums)
Plums are in season between May and October and are at their peak then. You’ll generally find them cheaper, tastier and more nutritious (as is common with seasonal produce!). When I buy them, I choose plums with smooth, unblemished skin and where necessary select those, which have a rich, deep colour. I keep my eyes open to see if they are covered with white bloom. The bloom acts as a protective layer and an indication that the plums haven’t been over-handled! I prefer to buy plums that are soft but a bit firm and yield to a bit of gentle pressure when pressed at the head. However, when you receive a gift box with all sorts of plums in it, then you can hardly complain!
I have had great triumphs, a few middle-of-the road and clear sounding gongs of disaster! My dreams of becoming a gluten-free goddess dashed without a hope or dream of recovery. Some things are best left buried, under piles of trash, never to be reawakened by dream or act!
Plum JamAdapted from the Australian Women’s Weekly Jams & Jellies book Makes 2-3 jars 9 dark plums (about 1kg) 500ml (2 cups) water 40 ml lemon juice (from freshly squeezed lemons) 500g caster sugar
Cut plums into quarters and remove stones
Put plums and water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil
Reduce heat, cover pan and simmer for an hour
Add lemon juice and sugar…stirrung over heat without boiling, till the sugar dissolves.
Stop! If you want to pot these and store them….now’s the time to sterilise your jars.
Boil uncovered, stirring occasionally (about 15-20 minutes) or until jam jells when tested!
Pour hot jam into hot sterilised jars and seal while hot.
In my case…since we were going to be eating it within a few weeks, I did not sterilise the jars, I just ensured they were very clean and once cool, refigerated.
I would say enjoy it on bread, in cakes and all the usual but I now have to add cornflakes to the list! Yes,cornflakes…my son loves a few spoonfuls with his breakfast cereal!
Nut-topped Baked PlumsInspired by a recipe from The detox health-plan cookbook by Maggie Pannell Fed 2…hungry people 50g (1/2 cup) ground almonds 15g (1 tablespoon) superfine sugar 1 egg yolk 50g pecans, chopped 10 plums, halved and destoned Juice from 2 Oranges
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade (400 degrees Fahrenheit)
Mix together the ground almonds, sugar and egg yolk till you form a paste. Then add the chopped pecans
Place the halved plums in a bowl…in my case, I used a dish for devilled eggs
Put the stuffing onto the Plum halves, doing your best to fill them as much as you can. Whatever you do,they need to be in a single layer in a shallow dish.
Pour the orange juice around the plums, the cover with foil and cook for 15 minutes
Remove the lid and bake for a further 5- 10 minutes, or until the plums are soft.
Transfer to individual, warmed serving plates and keep warm.
Serve juices seperate in small bowls with some creme fraiche…..Does life get any better?
I have to confess that of all the things I made with plums, this topped the chart. The plums were soft, sweet, juicy and incredibly tasty and the topping was heerlijk (Dutch for delicious). I say delicious but it was warm and crumbly at the same time, the buttery toasty pecans lending it great crunch. And then the rich, slight tartness of the juice, reduced to a sweet sauce. Of course, the final touch of creme fraiche is not negotiable…not for me anyway. I will make this again.
Thyme-scented plum lushFrom how to make 75 great juices by Joanna Farrow Makes 2-3 glasses 400g red plums 2-3 tablespoons (30-45ml) clear honey or maple syrup 1 tablespoon (15g) chopped fresh lemon thyme plus extra to decorate 100g crushed ice I used the soft and ripe plums from my gift box! They were quite sweet and had a rather intense flavour! A bit too intense for my husband…but I quite liked them!
Halve and stone the plums and put in a blender or food processor
Add the honey/maple syrup and the lemon thyme and blend until smooth,scraping down the side of the bowl/blender if necessary
Add the ice and blend until slushy.
Taste for sweetness, adding alittlemore honey/maple syrup if needed.
Pour into glasses and serve immediately, decorated with a sprig of thyme
Plum cup cakes
I used my favourite yoghurt cake recipe and placed some sliced plums on top and baked off. I really enjoyed them.
No-go Plum galette
Gluten-free plum yoghurt cake
Of course, I should mention the disasters….my gluten-free plum cake that didn’t make it, thankfully. I had a bite but struggled to eat my way through the slice. As did my husband. It was just awful. I tried to make a yoghurt cake batter, substituting the flour with Almond meal. It look great but didn’t taste the same. The cake cut the tongue…
Till we plum again! What have you been up to with Plums this autumn. Any great sucesses….and disasters ? Share all!