Are you a plum or a prune?

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October 1, 2011 at 3:49 pm

S4010572“Plums that are purple and plums that are plump, so that each bumpy lump is a plum that is plump”….

Whoa, whoa, whoa, not so fast.  Plum.  The origins of that word literally meant “any dried fruit”. Guess that explains why ‘plum pudding’ made famous in the lyrics above, is devoid of any plums.  So that ‘LIttle Jack Horner’ fellow, my guess is that he pulled out a big raisin and not a plum. But wait, you say, I thought a prune is a dried plum.  Don’t know where it all got turned around but plums are of the species Prunus, but somewhere along the way someone decided that ‘plum’ sounded better than prune and what was once dried became fresh.

Name aside, we are talking juicy stone fruit have shown up at the farmers markets now thru October.  All varieties are nice and juicy, but the taste can range from sweet, sweet, sweet to mouth puckering tart.  And such a beautiful range of skin color, from bright yellow and green to deep inky purple. But inside? Beautiful golden flesh.

This fiber rich fruit also packs in a load of potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and vitamin C.  And once it becomes a ‘prune’?  Well, show me the antioxidants baby. And here’s an interesting little tidbit, especially for us gals, plums are a huge help to the body absorbing iron.

Look for plums that have uniform color, are plump and yield to gentle pressure.  Steer clear of any with broken, bruised and wrinkled skin.  If the plums you picked need a bit more ripening place them in a brown paper bag, left on the kitchen counter, for a couple of days.  Once ripe, plums will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Plums are so yummy as is, but if you want to try your hand at cooking them, there are so many ways to go.  Sliced in a salad, in a chilled soup, broiled, grilled or roasted, baked in a cake, crumble or tart, frozen in a sorbet or cooked down into a jam, chutney or compote.  I did come across a great use for plums: swap out tomatoes for plums in a BLT sandwich.  I was skeptical but so glad I tried it.

Since the evening temperatures have been cooler, I have been putting the oven to use as of late.  A big thank you to Martha Stewart for the following recipe for Plum & Port Crostada.  I can’t think of a better way to use the Stanley plums I found at the market this week.  And paired with some lemon buttermilk ice cream? Two words: Absolute perfection, if I do say so myself ;)

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Plum & Port Crostada

(adapted from the Aug 09 Martha Stewart Living & at marthastewart.com)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 t salt (divided)

1/2 t sugar

1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pcs.

2 T ice water

1 1/2 c ruby port

1 1/4 c packed lt brown sugar

2 lbs stanley (or italian prune) plums, halved and pitted

1/4 c cornstarch

1/4 t cinnamon

1 t heavy cream, for brushing (or buttermilk, I had from making the ice cream)

sanding sugar for sprinkling (regular sugar does just fine here)

Pulse flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and sugar in a food processor. Add butter and pulse ’til mixture resembles coarse meal. Machine running, add ice water, slowly, until dough just comes together. Shape into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough, on a lightly floured surface, to an 1/8″ thickness. Place in an 8″ pie dish, leaving a one inch overhang of dough. Freeze for up to 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Simmer port and 1/2 cup of the brown sugar in a saucepan, over medium heat, until it is reduced to 1/2 cup (approx. 25 minutes). Transfer to a bowl. Cover and cool for 10 minutes.

In a bowl mix together the remaining brown sugar, teaspoon of salt, plums, cornstarch, cinnamon, and port syrup. Transfer to the pie shell. Fold in the dough overhang to form crust. Brush crust with cream, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce oven to 375 degrees. Bake until golden and center is bubbly (approx 1 1/2 hrs). Remove from oven and let cool.S4010577

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