2014-09-04 / From The Garden

Plum Season is Short – Buy Now

By Cynthia Gibson

Plums of many varieties are now abundant in supermarkets; however, the Italian prune-plum has a very short season of only about a month. They are now available at farmers' markets, local orchards, and some supermarkets. Its distinctive name comes from the fact that it is excellent dried or eaten fresh. Most plums are good for jam, tarts, and cakes.

The oval Italian prune-plums are deep purple with a golden yellow flesh. They are small and sweet with a hint of tartness. When cooked with the skin on, the purple color dominates a tart or jam. Another excellent quality of this fruit is that it is freestone, meaning the pit pops right out of the flesh, so they are so easy to prepare.

Prune-plums are a favorite in Europe. It had its beginnings in the Mediterranean, but it easily migrated from northern Italy to France, Switzerland, areas to the Caspian Sea, and America. The Spanish were responsible for bringing the fruit to our West Coast and the English colonists brought them to the East Coast. In France, prune-plums are called quetsches. The quetsches clafoutis cake is usually made with fresh cherries, but prune-plums make this simple gateau sing!

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Drying Plums

Making prunes in a dehydrator is simple. Depending on the amount of plums you begin with, you may need to dry them in batches.

. Wash the plums.
. With a paring knife, slice the plum in half and pop out the pit.
. Place the halves, cut side down, on the dehydrator trays. You can fit
more on the trays if the plums are flesh side up.
. Flip them once after four to six hours, then check every two hours
until the drying process is complete.
. A well-dried prune will be flexible and show no moisture.
. Bag the freshly dried prunes.
. Store them in baggies or clear jars with lids. If you see any moisture
within the baggie or jar, the plums are not dry enough. Either return
them to the dehydrator for a few more hours or freeze as is and use later
for baking.
. Your prunes will not look like the supermarket variety and will not
have their trademark aromas which is off-putting to many.

Italian Prune-Plum or Quetsches Cafloutis

Serves Six

1 lb. Italian prune-plums or
quetsches cut in half and pitted
1/2 cup of sugar plus 1 tbs. of
sugar, divided
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
3 tbs. un-salted butter, melted
and cooled
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. pure almond extract
Confectioner sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place baking rack in the center of the oven. Put sliced plums in a large bowl with 1 tbs. of sugar and let sit for 15 minutes. Butter a one-quart shallow baking dish, and using a slotted spoon transfer the plums to the dish. To the retained liquid add eggs, salt, milk, butter, flour, both extracts, and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Mix until smooth. Pour the batter over the plums. Bake about 35 minutes or until the plums bubble through the top of the cake. Use a knife placed in the center of the cake to check for doneness. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve.

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