One easy way to enjoy a plum harvest is to roast the sweet-tart fruit with honey, olive oil and a pinch of salt. Photo by: theironyou.com
July 17, 2019 11:19:01 AM
As a kid, I spent a lot of time outside, plenty of it in the backyard of our family home in Columbus. In retrospect, I realize what a grand playscape it was for my younger sister and I through different ages and stages of creativity and mischief. Many memories are vivid -- quilts over a clothesline to form stage curtains for our neighborhood play; chipping a tooth doing flips on the swing set; climbing into the mimosa branches to read; celebratory dinners and parties on the patio; helping Mama plant, weed and water her many flower beds.
I also remember my mother sending me out to the back of the yard to bring in ripe plums that grew on three trees she had planted there. (I'm pretty sure the trees' origin was my grandparents' farm in Pontotoc.) Like most kids on such an errand, I tested the produce before it ever got back to the house, juice dribbling down my chin.
With a new seasonal harvest of fresh sweet-tart plums ahead, ideas for using them accompany the memories. Mama used roasted plums with vanilla ice cream -- which Daddy loved. But there are so many ways to cook with plums. Several recipes are included today. My favorite may be the Brie appetizers with plum and bacon jam.
Plums come in numerous varieties. Simplyrecipes.com recommends the Santa Rosa to bake with; it's red and sweet right under the skin, but yellow and more tart as you get near the center. Whichever variety, when choosing plums for baking, go for firm-ripe plums, says finecooking.com. "The ideal plum for baking is neither super-soft nor rock hard, but somewhere in between. Take a plum and squeeze it gently in the palm of your hand," the site recommends. "It should smell fragrant and feel firm yet springy."
Whatever color they may be, plums should feel heavy for their size, smell fragrant, and have smooth, taut skin. Don't be put off by the silvery-gray film on a plum's skin; it's natural and an indicator of ripeness. Avoid any fruit with cracks, blemishes or soft spots, finecooking advises.
As our hot, humid Mississippi summer continues to bring us more fruits and vegetables in their turn, maybe one of them stirs a latent memory for you. The plum harvest makes me think of Mama's trees. For you, certain foods may take you back to a family garden, a parent's signature dish, or a day in the kitchen with a loved one.
Author Charles Pierre Monselet (1825-1888) once said, " ... The pleasant hours of our life are all connected by a more or less tangible link with some memory of the table."
HONEY ROASTED PLUMS WITH THYME AND OLIVE OIL
6 (not too ripe) plums, cut in half and pitted
2 tablespoons honey (pick one with a mild taste)
A good drizzle of olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Pinch of salt
BRIE APPETIZERS WITH BACON-PLUM JAM
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 1 1/4 hours
Makes 2 1/2 dozen
1 pound bacon strips, chopped
1 cup thinly sliced sweet onion
1 shallot, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup brewed coffee
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup pitted dried plums, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon Sriracha chili sauce
1/2 teaspoon pepper
30 slices Brie cheese (1/4 inch thick)
30 slices French bread baguette (1/4 inch thick), toasted
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Makes six servings
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons white sugar (can reduce to 1/2 cup for a more tart cobbler)
4 cups seeded and sliced fresh plums, 10-18 plums, depending on size of plums (Santa Rosa plums work best)
2 tablespoons instant tapioca (or cornstarch)
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
(Source: simplyrecipes.com/Elise Bauer)
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.