Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Plum Good

Everyone loves a good peach. This simple pronouncement may be the sole thing over which all of humanity can agree upon and find some small consolation. Even bitter rivals deep in peach contemplation might hold truce long enough to escape into shared collective reverie, remembrances of sitting upon a beloved’s lap in the heat and safety of summer slurping sweet nectar from a quickly disappearing orb…

Personally and crushingly true, more often than not peaches have let me down and none too gently either. In drastic self defense I now reserve my indulgences to canned and cling or rarer still, times when experts with access to the choicest specimens hand select their wares for gun shy diners like me. Burned one too many times, I have paid and taken home more than my share of false blushing beauties only to discover a charade too late in the game to recover from. The time worn recipe of emotional let down marred by deception skirted in financial loss have made peach selection and enjoyment a high risk venture- which is partially why I primarily now eat plums.

You see taste and proclivity have strange and secret labors which sometimes travel through the mind and heart more than the tongue. In spite of appearing to be fair weather friend, my loyalties actually run deep through the grounds of time and once along time ago I fell in love with the Laura Ingalls Wilder book, On the Banks of Plum Creek. Given by a friend as a gift, this was preferred and cherished to all others in the well read series. I believe Laura’s affection for the prolific bite sized fruit, warmed and split ripe in the sun sealed my own affections for this oft overlooked pick. And so the commingling of friendship and devotion for another thrust an unknown frontier girl’s life upon my own which henceforth had me inwardly and unconditionally regarding plums as my favorite fruit. Though Little Jack Horner sat in his corner plumbing the depths of his Christmas pie and the very name of this stone fruit happens to be synonymous with excellence and desirability, I still rarely hear folks clamor for this drupaceous fruit. Blending into a crowd, these reserved beauties patiently recede from the foreground while precious jewel like berries and cherries are clucked and cooed over as if newborn babies. On the other side voluptuous peaches, melons, and mangoes are hotly handled and sniffed making internal temperatures rise. Plums fall safely in the middle. Comfortably medium sized receiving no extra attention for being cute or monstrous; their colored coating neither is ostentatious plumage which bewitches.

Rather this gently grooved stone fruit is quietly dignified solidly resting upon the virtues of its own good nature rather than external flash and drama. They are the dependable ones of the fruit world. Abundant, economical and none too fragile, they don’t require eternity to ripen nor do they rot too quickly. Unlike almost every other variety of fruit, I have yet to taste an unpleasant plum. They deliver.

Thin easy-to-eat skin provides just a veneer of spicy sour to counterbalance pleasing juicy flesh. Cooked, heavily pigmented skin lends a rich lustrous purple to jams, compotes and crisps. Terrifically efficient there is also virtually no waste of labor in the eating and preparation with small slim pit which usually cleaves away. I like that plums fit comfortably within my palm intimate friend, its soft skin readily picking up gentle heat from a hand.

Plums remind me that the truest things cannot be hastily judged but rather closely observed. Up close, medium toned fruits illuminate a subtle modulated world of purples, yellows and greens. Amethyst, magenta, goldenrod, violet, and wine these are colors which hint at silk ribbon and crushed velvet. Seeped in nostalgia they are from a yester time, old fashioned with a faint bloom of frost. Paired to the hour they hide in the shadow of dusk where famously they coexist with the decadence of foie gras, the smolder of Armagnac, and the homey comfort of toasted walnuts. And on the shoulders of fall especially in the form of the misunderstood prune, they promise the richness of life as it ages, mellows, sweetens and condenses. If one thinks about it, that really is no ordinary or middling or average thing but rather, something good- plum good indeed.

Spiced Italian Prunes: These are the favorites of my favorites. Small, ovoid and available for a short time, these plums are enjoyable eaten one after another. To jazz them up a little, this compote can be spooned over Greek yogurt or some chocolate ice cream. Fiber-icious too!

Split and pitted Italian Prunes
Cinnamon stick
Knob of ginger root grated
Water enhanced with a little lemon juice/ wine/ other spirits

Directions: Put all ingredients in a medium pot being careful not to add too much water. You can always add more as needed. Heat the mixture to a gentle simmer allowing the water to reduce and thicken. Cook until desired softness, when the color relaxes and spreads, but while the fruit still holds its shape. Serve warm over ice cream or cooled as is.


Anh said...

I think you really have captured all of my love for stoned fruits in your post. Really lovely...

I am still ok with peaches. But my fav by far is apricots and plums! They are just really good.

You also remind me of a particular pkums available in Vietnam - the skin is darker green and the flesh is red and moist. These are the best, and I haven't had them for a long time.

Lydia said...

What a lovely recipe! I adore prune plums and can still find them at the farmstands at this time of year. I do love peaches, too, especially the white ones, when I can find them at the farms. In the supermarket, they are often rock hard and tasteless.

Lucy said...

You've undone my years of neglect for the plum in a few short paragraphs. My beloved blood plums aside, the sour flesh has put me off eating the various varieties for years. I feel a little braver now.

What a glorious recipe. A Paean to late summer fruit. Wonderful.

Callipygia said...

anh- 3 cheers for stoned fruits. I hope you can someday soon be reunited with that Vietnamese plum, they sound so pretty.

lydia- I go crazy buying those little guys, before it is too late. And I am a secret admirer of the white peach too.

lucy- I understand completely, they are quite understated and go well in-things. I never heard of blood plums!

Gattina said...

Calli, don't you think once fruit is canned, it totally turns out to be a different animal? Some, either fresh or canned, are splendid in their own ways, like peach and pineapple, some just disastrous, that would be grape and cherry for me.
Love how you colored the pic, the plums are radiant! And love this compote too! I'm helpless in recongize the specimen, but I guess I just go for the one(s) look very close to your pic's, it wouldn't be any wrong :)

Callipygia said...

Gattina- Yes canned is a different thing. My favorite is cling peaches or mandarin oranges. I'd love to try a fresh lychee too. Ths plum in the pic is an Italian prune.

sher said...

Oh, what a mervelous post. I so look forward to reading them. How can one person be so talented-- the artwork, the prose! Amazing. And count me as a great lover of plums. I love the contrasting tastes of the juicy flesh and the tart skins. I used to make plum jam all the time. If I ever do that again, I must send you a jar!

Callipygia said...

sher- I look forward to reading your gracious responses, thank you and I would be delighted by the jam if ever you made some!

Honeycake said...

Cally, you must be living in my mind. Yesterday, after being disappointed by the peaches and nectarines at the farmer's market, I went to Dan's Fresh Produce in downtown Alameda; I looked over all the fruit and when I saw the Italian prunes, I got warm and fuzzy. It's fall! Do you remember the jam I made from the Knolls' prunes? I roasted the fruit, split open, pits still in, in the pizza oven at Oliveto (it was between lunch and dinner -- no cheese was involved in this jam)until they melted and gave themselves sweetly to the canning.