Monday, July 27, 2009

Plum Good

a recipe for Plum Butter

On a very warm evening at almost bedtime, take the kids up to the garden and pick:

5 quarts small, golden-pink plums

where by "picking" we mean allowing the fruit to fall into your hands. If you have only brought a 4-quart container to the garden, bring back the rest in your skirt. It feels sexy to be so old-fashioned.

Leave the plums out on the counter all night if you don't have enough room in your fridge and/or don't want to make room. Make a halfhearted but doomed attempt to keep the fruit flies away by covering the plums with your last clean dish towel.

In the morning, once you have cleaned enough dishes to make the kitchen one (or more) step(s) above a toxic waste zone, rinse the plums in a bowl of water. Discard any that are rotten, hard as rocks, half-eaten by your children, or otherwise unacceptable. Telling the kids to pick up the windfall plums from the ground beneath the tree results in less than perfect results.

Put the plums into a stock pot or, if your husband has absconded with your largest stock pot (including lid) and then conveniently forgotten about it, your biggest soup pot. Add a bunch of


—not enough to cover the plums but enough so's you're not at all worried about boiling dry. Other recipes call for specific amounts of water; they're too scientific by far. Consider adding cinnamon as the recipe demands and instead get an avante-garde wilde hair and add

about 1" fresh ginger root, grated

Nod in a satisfied manner and bring to a boil over high heat. While you're waiting for water to boil, go push your son on the big-kid swing, the one he can't get onto or off of without your help. Remember the plums after about ten minutes and rush into the house, leaving the three-year-old on the swing, to turn them down. Race back out to the swing fearing tragedy, but Rhone's just fine, swaying away under the Madrona tree.

When you can get back to the stove, simmer the plums about 10 minutes, then drain, reserving the liquid because by now it's turned a lovely, tropical-sunset pink and you are sure it's plum full of flavor that you don't want to lose. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the dilapidated plums against the bottom of your plastic colander until only a few skins and the pits remain. Turn those into the compost and return the squashed plums, along with the reserved sunset juice, to the stove. Add about a

cup of sugar

Simmer all day, returning to stir and scrape the bottom of the pan. Worry about burning, but it doesn't. The mixture slowly turns from that lovely pink to a deep orange-y mauve, the color of expensive lingerie.

As evening approaches and cocktail hour feathers in, as you're wishing you had some light fresh summery drink instead of the redundant, fattening fridge full of beer, look to the plum butter. It's thickened to an applesauce consistency; you just want a little more reduction so it's easily spreadable. Dip out a quarter cup or so and combine it in a cocktail shaker with some vodka and ice cubes. No, you're not that much of a lush; add some San Pellegrino and shake well. Be sure to have a towel handy because shaking sparkling water results in a shocking mess, especially in the hair.

Take the drink outside to enjoy with the kids, who are slurping on homemade apple juice popsicles. It's got a nice fizz, but the plum butter really needs some more sugar. Oh well: waste not, want not.

Get distracted making dinner for the kids and leave the plum butter on the stove, heat turned off, all night. Tomorrow morning, bring it to a good boil and stir constantly for five minutes to kill anything that might have started to grow in it. Shake your head slowly, incredulous that you learned this from a chef.

Reduce the plum butter a little more, adding

another cup of sugar and
about a half cup of honey

Taste it. When the tartness has diminished enough that it doesn't immediately make your salivary glands burn, decide you're sick of dealing with it and it's good enough. Scrape the entire mixture, now the color and texture of a mohair sweater you once owned, into a one-quart container, put it into the fridge, and forget about it.

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