Methley Plums – The Taste of Summer Food

This summer is the year of fruit. One crop of fruit goes banging into the next. My fingers are hopelessly purple after spending a weekend up to my elbows in Methley Plums Cherries, gooseberries, currants have come and gone and our previously most ungenerous plum has produced a bounty of fruit.

Sam Benowitz of Raintree Nursery in Washington, saw this early plum was forced into bloom for the Seattle Northwest Flower & Garden Show several years ago when NW Garden Writers Assoc. members and Pierce County WA Master Gardeners teamed up to construct a food garden promoting the GWA “Plant A Row For The Hungry” program. We received a gold medal and The People’s Choice Cup”. It was time for me to retire from designing show gardens.

When we dismantled the garden I purchased this plum tree from Sam and planted it in our home garden. While it has a lovely spring shower of blooms, in previous years the fruits have been small and sparse. This year we have a huge supply of medium sized Japanese plums. The fruits are a deep red, a delicious sweet tart flavor and a good size for eating out of hand. The pits are not freestone but can be cut in half and popped out with a paring knife. The deep colors must mean it’s full of anthocyanins and bioflavonoids.

With this much fruit, I’ve had ample opportunity to experiment on how what to do with pecks of plums. These are recipes which we can wing it with the abundance of summer, so nothing precise, be careful with hot peppers, the heat can build. I’m not giving you my recipe for jam failure but it happened. Eat your fill of these fresh plums. They’ll store for about two weeks in a refrigerator.

Fresh Plum Salsa, chopped up plums, jalapenos, cilantro, a colorful bell pepper, onion, a little garlic, lime juice and salt. If you want to use a processor do it with a light touch. I prefer the chopped texture.

Chipotle Plum Barbeque Sauce, 6 cups of pitted plums, 3 medium onions, t tablespoon chipotle chili powder & one tablespoon smoked paprika, or 2-3 chipotles in adobo sauce, 3 large cloves of garlic, minced, ½ cup cider vinegar sugar and salt to taste after cooking. Run these ingredients in a food processor or finely chop. Put in a heavy non-reactive pan and simmer until thickened. Give these an occasional stir and it’s good to be doing another kitchen task so you can make there is no scorching. Remove from heat, season with sugar and salt. When cool package some up in small containers and share.

Plum Purple Basil Pie, Use any good pie recipe, I prefer those heavy on the fruit. Check out a peach pie recipe and simply substitute plums. The purple basil brings in a nice spicy flavor without little green specks but any basil can be used. A touch of cinnamon can be added.

Plum Dessert Sauce three cups of halved or quartered plums, 1 cup red wine, 2 tablespoons lavender flavored a honey ( a gift that is too strong for toast but good in sauces and lemonade)…add more if you think best, ½ cup sugar, 4 crushed or freshly ground cardamom seeds and 1 teaspoon vanilla. A little cinnamon, a bay leaf, a few drops of almond flavoring or liquor are all possible additions. Prepare the plums while you bring other ingredients to a boil in a non-reactive pan, reduce liquid by about 1/3.  Add plums and gently cook for three minutes. If sauce seems too thin for your liking pour off some of the juices, cool slightly and combine with 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Reheat until starch is cooked, it will be transparent. Excellent with pound cake, a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream. Homemade pound cake, good ice cream or real whipped cream recommended.

If you have a good supply of plums give one of these recipe suggestions a try and don’t be hesitant to tweak to your taste. These should work with almost any plum variety. I see our crop from the Prunus Mume is maturing fast. Just rubbing one leaves a fragrance on my fingers but coming up with something besides salted ume’ plums may be a challenge but oh, to capture the fragrance when it’s not an eating plum.

Advertisements

Fresh Refrigerator Pickles – Keane’s Favorite

We often double or triple this recipe and enjoy it for several days. You can never make too much. Use long cucumbers, short ones or even the round lemon types, adjusting for size. If firm seeds have developed, scoop out the centers with a spoon before slicing.

3 long cucumbers or 5 medium, peeled
1 sweet green pepper
1 sweet red pepper
1 medium onion
1 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons celery seeds
¾ cup sugar
½ cup cider vinegar

Cut cucumbers into 1/8” thick slices. Cut pepper in half, remove seeds and thinly slice pepper. Peel onion, cut in half and thinly slice. Mix cucumber, pepper and onion slices with salt and celery seed. Let stand for one hour. Combine sugar and vinegar, pour over vegetables, mix well, cover and refrigerate. Pickles are ready to eat in about a day. Store in refrigerator for up to one month. This makes about 5 cups of delicious bread and butter type pickles. Sometimes, Keane reduces the sugar, uses fresh dill instead of celery seed or adds a spicy pepper to the mixture. It’s wonderful to have a jar of these to pull out of the refrigerator on a summer day. It’s good enough for lunch, especially with a scoop of cottage cheese on the side.

Basil-Tomato Salsa

Salsa recipes are versatile and this is one that says Summer! Serve the “Basic Recipe” with chips or crackers.
The goat cheese log shown resting on a nest of wild arugula is summer fare. Make the full “Basic Recipe” and use half for this smokey paprika version. Add 1/4th tsp. Nichols triple smoked paprika and 1 tsp. olive oil and serve with goat cheese. Adding a spoonful of chopped capers to the “Basic Recipe” portion gives a lovely Tuscan quality. Pile onto toasted bread slices for bruschetta. These salsas are good with fish. If your palate wants more heat, acid or garlic adjust accordingly. You are the cook and summer abundance invites improvisation.

Basic Recipe
6 medium Roma Tomatoes (3 cups diced)
1 large mild onion (Walla Wallas if available)
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4-6 Jalapeno peppers –deseeded
1 cup basil leaves, finely slivered and tightly packed
juice of 2 lemons or ¼ cup red wine vinegar
salt & pepper, to taste, a touch of sugar if needed

With a well sharpened knife trim and finely dice the tomatoes, onion, and garlic. Deseeding peppers improves texture of the salsa and produces a milder flavor. The basil leaves need to have stems trimmed away before chopping. Adjust seasonings to your taste. If you prefer to use slicing tomatoes, chop, let sit for a few minutes, and drain off excess juices.
I’ve used wild arugula which holds up in summer heat better than our standard arugula. Both will be delicious, Spread your cracker or toast with goat cheese “Chevre”, add a few sprigs of arugula and top with salsa.

Gardeners tip: beginning July 1 soils in the continental US are warm enough to direct sow basil seeds. Sow seeds about 1/2 inch apart in a sunny spot, keep damp as seeds germinate and plants develop. Thin to allow 3-4″ between developed plants. Start harvesting when 4″ tall. This is always my main crop for pesto. All this clipping doesn’t make for beautiful plants but the flavor and production is great.