When blue Italian prune plums hit the farm stands, it’s time to stew. A recent call from Auntie Helen reminded me that I had yet to stew plums this year. These otherwise quite mild fall fruits really shine when reduced to bright plummy chunks in sauce. (That is, unless you turn them into the divine plum torte instead.)
Stewing has a practical side, too: The season for prune plums around here is very short. If you stew them, you can extend their life until — say — now, when I’m not only eating them right out of the bowl in the fridge, but I’m putting them on cereal in the morning and on pound cake for a simple dessert.
Cooking these plums generates a dramatic change in color: When fruit meets heat, blue-purple skin and yellow flesh brew up into a deep magenta color that the folks at Benjamin Moore would kill to replicate.
It’s worth noting that these plums are freestone, as opposed to summer plums whose flesh wraps itself tenaciously to the pit. So if you don’t like fishing plum pits out of the sauce or warning your guests to watch out, you can fix that right up front: Halve the washed raw plums, pop out the pits and stew the halves. Note that you will definitely have mush if you do this — delicious, but no shape to it. If you stew whole plums and handle then very gently (maybe even shave 5 minutes off the cooking time to keep them from disintegrating), you can serve whole, soft plums with bright syrup over ice cream, pound cake or any other lovely plain vehicle for sauce.
Makes about 3 cups
- 3 pounds Italian prune plums (firm, not hard)
- 2 tablespoons sugar, or more to taste
Wash plums well; do not peel. Place them in a saucepan large enough that the plums don’t stack more than two high. Add water to half-cover the fruit. Place pan over medium heat and bring water to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover pan and cook for 20 to 25 minutes. Stir occasionally to shift plums from top to bottom. When plums are soft, remove lid, add sugar, stir and return uncovered pan to stove for an additional 5 minutes, stirring to keep plums from burning.
Photograph and recipe copyright 2009 Garside Group LLC