Plum of an idea: Seasonal plums stir memory and tasty options

 

One easy way to enjoy a plum harvest is to roast the sweet-tart fruit with honey, olive oil and a pinch of salt.

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

 

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This plum cobbler is flavored with tapioca, orange zest and cinnamon, among other ingredients.

This plum cobbler is flavored with tapioca, orange zest and cinnamon, among other ingredients.
Photo by: simplyrecipes.com

 

These appetizers of Brie cheese on toasted baguette are topped with a bacon-plum jam.

These appetizers of Brie cheese on toasted baguette are topped with a bacon-plum jam.
Photo by: tasteofhome.com

 

 

Jan Swoope

 

 

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 

 

 

 

  • Preheat oven to 400 F and place a rack in the middle. Place halved plums in a 8-by-8-inch square baking pan, cut side up. 

     

  • Drizzle with honey, olive oil; sprinkle with thyme leaves and salt. 

     

  • Roast for about 12 to 14 minutes, or until plums are cooked through and the honey starts to caramelize and glazes the plums. 

     

  • Remove from oven and allow to cool for a couple of minutes. Serve as it is or with ice-cream, yogurt or creme fraiche. Roasted plums will last in an airtight container in the refrigeration for up to three days. 

     

    (Source: theironyou.com) 

     

     

     

    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 

     

     

     

  • In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until partially cooked but not crisp. Remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon; drain, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings. 

     

  • Add onion and shallot to drippings; cook and stir 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook 2 minutes longer. Stir in coffee, water, vinegar, plums, brown sugar, maple syrup, chili sauce and pepper. Bring to a boil. Stir in bacon. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours or until liquid is syrupy, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature. 

     

  • Transfer mixture to a food processor; pulse until jam reaches desired consistency. Place cheese slices on toasted baguette slices. Top each with 2 teaspoons jam. 

     

    (Source: tasteofhome.com) 

     

     

     

    PLUM COBBLER 

     

    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 

     

     

     

  • Preheat oven to 350 F. 

     

  • In a large bowl, combine 3/4 cup white sugar, plums, instant tapioca, orange zest, and cinnamon. Place the fruit mixture in a 2-quart casserole. 

     

  • In a medium bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. Cut the butter in with a fork, pastry blender, or your (clean) hands until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the milk and egg until just moistened (do not overmix). 

     

  • Drop the batter in large spoonfuls onto the fruit mixture. Bake in a 350 F oven 35 minutes, until cobbler topping is nicely browned and filling is bubbly. Serve with whipped cream (optional).  

     

    (Source: simplyrecipes.com/Elise Bauer)

     

  • Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

     

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