Category Archives: Plum

Visions of Sugar Plums Danced in Their Heads

That familiar line from “A Visit from St. Nicholas” was published anonymously in 1823, some 20 years before Dickens wrote his Christmas Novella.

And while sugar plums may have originally been sugar coated seeds (known as comfit), summer fruit was certainly candied as a method of perservation that would help an otherwise quickly degrading piece of fruit like a plum last well into Christmas when it would have been a treasured gift.

These plums came from my second year “Blues Jam” plum tree and the fact that I only harvested a small bowl worth makes these sugar plums are all the more special. The flavor is not as cloyingly sweet as I had expected, nor does it taste anything like a dried plum. They have the bright and delicate flavor and fragrance of fresh plums – surely a welcome vision to dance in your head on a wintery December day.

To make the following recipe halve your plums and remove the pits. Into a heavy-bottomed, non-reactive pan, pour 1/2 inch layer of sugar onto which you will lay your plum halves, stone side down. Cover each successive layer with another 1/2 inches of sugar until you have used up all your plums. Heat the sugar slowly and bring it to simmer until the sugar is dissolved and has made a syrup, or clarified. Remove them from heat, submerge the plums completely in syrup by covering them with a saucer, and steep them for 3 days. After 3 days remove the plums with a slotted spoon, reheat the syrup to a simmer and add your plums back. Poach the fruit for 1 minute then cool, submerge and again steep them for 3 days. Repeat the process twice more. On the fourth and final time, simmer them in the syrup for 5 minutes. Remove the fruit with a slotted spoon, rinse them well with water and dry them in a dehydrator or on a rack in a low oven. Save the cooled syrup to use for making homemade plum soda from a ginger bug. or to brush cooling cakes.

One other way to personalize these is to add fragrant flavorings to the sugar once it’s turned to syrup form. Lemon verbena would be wonderful with plums but jasmine, hardy ginger, lemon balm, chamomile and mint would all be wonderful too. I imagine candying poppy or fennel seeds with mint would be a lot like a tic tac.

Here is the recipe in Elinore’s words:

TO DRIE APRICOCKS, PEACHES, PIPPINS OR PEARPLUMS
Take your apricocks or pearplums, & let them boile one walme in as much clarified sugar as will cover them, so let them lie infused in an earthen pan three days, then take out your fruits, & boile your syrupe againe, when you have thus used them three times then put half a pound of drie sugar into your syrupe, & so let it boile till it comes to a very thick syrup, wherein let your fruits boile leysurelie 3 or 4 walmes, then take them foorth of the syrup, then plant them on a lettice of rods or wyer, & so put them into yor stewe, & every second day turne them & when they be through dry you may box them & keep them all the year; before you set them to drying you must wash them in a litlle warme water, when they are half drie you must dust a little sugar upon them throw a fine Lawne.
– Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book, 1604

Plum Crazy

Hopefully sometime next week I’ll get my desktop restored and be able to download photos again. Until then just imagine amazing plumness.

I’m winding down the plums in my kitchen unless I can convince my kids to come pick plums with me tomorrow from a neighbor’s tree. That’s assuming today’s blustery weather didn’t knock them all to the ground.

In the last 3 weeks I’ve had my share of plums. The neighbor who showed up with probably 30 pounds of plums started me down the path. Within days I had canned or dried them all and emailed the neighborhood for more so that I could send them to preschool with my little guy. He attends a wonderful montisorri but the snack food is atrocious. It’s generally saltines and graham crackers so this year I’ve made it my mission to supply their snack at least once a week.

It won’t be easy to beat a graham cracker in a three year old’s eyes – especially one who never gets them! But I’m putting my thinking cap on and hopefully it will serve me well.

Back to the plums.

This has been a bumper year for them it seems so I’m listing how I’ve preserved or served them in my household. There are many, many more ways.

Mostly I’ve dehydrated them. When you do it yourself they taste nothing like what you buy in the store. The sugars are almost carmelized and you can take them out a little early while they are still soft. This retains much of the fresh flavor but most of the water has evaporated out so they take up about 1/8 of their original space. I save them in glass jars in the freezer since I didn’t dehydrate all the moisture out (which is why they are so yummy).

Once they are dried like this you can simply soak them in warm liquid for about 10 minutes to rehydrate them. You can put them into muffins, quick breads or bake them as you would fresh plums. To dry them simply wash them, halve and pit them then lay them on dehydrator screens skin down until no juice comes out when you squeeze them.

I’ve also made plum chutney. I love to use this chutney as a glaze or sauce for pork or any rich smoky meat like smoked duck. It also makes a great base for salad dressing for a beet and gorgonzola spinach salad. The measurements are very fluid – add until it’s to your liking and it’s so high in sugar from the plums and vinegar that it will still be safe to process in a water bath.

Plum Chutney

About 15-20 plums, chopped skin on
1 onion, chopped
1 cup raisins or dried currents
1/2 cup evaporated cane juice or honey
1 cup Rockridge Orchard apple cider vinegar

Simmer for 30 – 60 minutes until you achieve the thickness you like
Bottle and water bath process for 10 minutes, or freeze

Lemon Verbena Plum Compote

30 plums, seeded and chopped with skin on
1 cup evaporated cane juice
1 cup filtered water
1 handful lemon verbena leaves
2 Tablespoons honey
Warm the water and sugar in a pan with the lemon verbena leaves, crushing the leaves with the back of the spoon. Stir the sugar until dissolved then turn the heat off and let the lemon verbena steep for 10 minutes.
Remove the lemon verbena leaves and add the honey, stirring until dissolved.
Add the plums and cook gently over medium heat for 2-5 minutes until they soften slightly. Can using a water bath for 10 minutes. These are great with yogurt and granola or with pound cake and whipped cream for a quick dessert, or just to eat plain in the middle of winter when you really want fruit that tastes fresh and not dried or stewed.

Plum Cobbler

Any cobbler, crisp or crumble topping recipe
Enough quartered plums to fill your casserole dish
2 Tablespoons of instant tapioca or cornstarch
Quarter plums and add sugar and cinnamon to taste, then add tapioca or cornstarch. Cover with topping and bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven until the filling bubbles. Serve with Snickerdoodle ice cream or cinnamon whipped cream.

Some other great ways to use plums:

Plum Butter
Plum Jam
Plum Clafoutis
Plum Tartin
Spiced Plums
Brandied Plums
Plums in Port
Upside Down Plum Cake

How about you? What are your favorite ways to use plums?