7.16.10 Plum Perfect

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photos by gluttonforlife
There comes a time every summer when I fetishize plums. When I lived in Los Angeles, I got to know many different varieties: Santa Rosa, Greengage (Reine Claude), Damson, pluots and more. And somewhere tucked away, I still have a recipe for a lightly sweet and dry cake studded with juicy Italian plums I got from the Times more than 2 decades ago. I'll share it with you a bit later in the summer, when those plums are at their peak. I prefer plums when they are ice cold and rather firm, juicy but still a little tart. Still, I'm not opposed to popping a yielding little sugarplum into my mouth and licking its sweet syrup from my fingers. But before I go all Nigella on you, I want to tell you about a quick and easy way to make spicy plum pickles. Sometimes you buy a few too many, or you just can't eat one more right now and they're about to pass their prime, and that's when you might consider this recipe.
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royal blush
Plums are so beautiful, aren't they? The colors defy description. That slightly dusty-looking coating they often have is an epicuticular wax coating sometimes called a "bloom." It enhances water repellency, reflects UV rays and creates a self-cleaning property called the "lotus effect." I'm making a sourdough starter right now, and my reference book said I could speed the process by tossing in a couple of ripe plums, leaving the bloom intact.
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sweet & sour
For these spicy pickled plums, you simply make a quick syrup with vinegar, sugar, chiles, ginger and spices, and then pour it over whole plums that you have scored and placed in a heat-proof jar. After sitting in the fridge for a day or so, they are delicious paired with grilled meat, with cheese, or even for dessert over vanilla ice cream or panna cotta. Using a good quality balsamic vinegar will make a real difference here. I am currently obsessed with this Gran Riserva (aged 12 years) from Fattoria Estense. I picked it up after having lunch at Giorgione the other week (the best fried artichokes, btw, and the most incredible goat cheese-and-sour cherry ice cream) and it's worth every penny.
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star players
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plum, cheese, cracker
Have a beautiful weekend!
 

Pickled Plums

makes about 1 quart
  • — 1 pound firm-ripe red or black plums
  • — 1 cup water
  • — 2/3 cup rapadura or organic cane sugar
  • — 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • — 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • — 2 dried chiles de árbol
  • — 2 whole star anise
  • — 4 green cardamom green cardamom pods
  • — 8 nickel-sized coins of ginger
  • — generous pinch sea salt

With a sharp paring knife, slit skin of each plum lengthwise from top to bottom evenly around the plum in 3 or 4 places, then place in a heatproof jar.

Simmer water with remaining ingredients in a nonreactive saucepan, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Immediately pour pickling liquid and spices over plums.

Cool, uncovered, then chill, covered, at least 1 day. When you eat them, you may choose to remove the skins (they flick off easily) or not. Pickled plums will keep in the fridge for several months.

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