Friday, September 4, 2009

Saving Private Plums

What do you do with 30-40lbs of plums that nearly all ripen in the space of about three weeks?

Eat a few, give a few away and store the bulk of them for the months ahead, when there is no fruit around, that's what.

Consider the statement "eat a few" - it is important, for three reasons; first, they're full of vitamins and minerals and so very good for your body; second, they're gorgeously flavoursome and so good for your soul; and for thirds, we focus on the word "few". To put it another way, eat too many and they'll interfere with your digestive tract. You'll not want to go more than 50 yards from a toilet for a couple of days.

The most interesting part is storing them. In their raw, ripe state they won't stay fresh for long so you have to do something to preserve them.

The first two methods are effective but a bit dull to write about. Try freezing them (here's the process I use) or try bottling them. I've not tried it before but here's the the method I'm using.

Much more interesting, however, are cooking them and fermenting them. Here we go!

First cooking. There are plum recipes all over the net but I was interested in plum pies and plum sauce.

For the pies, I ended up improvising. The pastry on each, by the way was simple shortcrust pastry with a little sugar sprinkled on top.

Having lost most of the gages to mould after they were weather damaged before ripening, I had just about enough for one large pie filling. Here's the original recipe, credited to celebrity chef James Martin.

I had a bigger pie dish than he was using and my gages wouldn't quite fill so I took a few Victoria plums and halved them, adding them uncooked to the Gages which had been pretty much stewed before putting them into the pastry. I'm hoping I might get a bit of difference in flavour between the two as well as a bit of difference in texture.

But I won't know yet because it's gone straight into the freezer. Looked and smelled good though!

I had (have) far more Victorias though, so I whipped up a Victoria Plum pie based on the same recipe but with absolutely minimal pre-cooking at all, just to see what the difference would be.

The plums were halved and less then 100ml of water and around two tablespoons of sugar to the approx 1kg of plums in the pan and brought to the boil quickly, with the lid on. I let them boil for around two minutes, lid still on to steam all the fruit. This way they kept their shape.

I suspect this pie will be terrific - the juices tasted both sharp and sweet - but once again it went into the freezer. We'll actually be eating it an a couple of days time, so I'll let you know.

The plum wine I embark on first thing in the morning. I'm going to make a dry wine using this recipe (plum wine 1). Again, I'll let you know how it goes, but it may not be until this time next year as plum wine is notoriously slow to clear. So here's to the future.

As for giving a few away, it's easy - especially in a bumper year like this one. I've made plum pies, I'm making plum wine, I've frozen a few and bottled a few. My wife's also made 16lbs of Plum jam (it's delicious). But I've still got half the fruit left on the tree, so why not?

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