Add the word plum as a term of endearment in addressing your loved ones and you may be pleasantly surprised with the helpful, cheerful cooperation you receive. To your partner try something like “Sugarplum darling, could you empty the dishwasher?” or to your offspring “my cherub-cheeked, plum-ducky, could you please promise to be home by 11 pm?” There’s something, just so indelibly sweet about the plum, the mere utterance of the word brings music to our ears and visions of whimsy. This, thanks to Russian composer, Peter Tchaikovsky, who gave the plum a cheerful, bouncy sound of its own in his bubbly Christmas ballet hit, Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy.
And as we Ottawans know, the fruity, four-letter “P” word pops up here on the Parliamentary stage quite frequently because it rings a few bells with politicians who especially love plums--as in plum-appointments! If we savvy capitalists hear of any sour or shady plum political deals, however, the politicians do a different dance to the tune of, My Popularity Doth PLUMmet. I digress. The plum is neither scandalous or shady. It is in fact an innocent,colourful character on the fruit stands and plays a melodious and surprising accompaniment to any entrée or dessert. Plums play lovely duets with pork or chicken, cinnamon or ginger in desserts and add a sweet soprano note to salads with sharp cheeses.
Hundreds of years ago, wild plums grew in perfect harmony in temperate climates around the world in Canada, the US and Europe. Eventually, these wild varieties were replaced in North America by cultivated European plums and Japanese varieties from Asia. The dried plum, AKA “the prune”, has a chorus of regular followers for its “digestive assistance” and scored a big hit in ancient times as a popular, dietary staple among old world tribes. US marketers [or should I say the KGP (Plum Police)] have now ordered us to call prunes, “dried plums”. Apparently the word prunes is undesirable and causes some age-phobic folks to shrivel and cringe.
Plenty of fresh varieties of Ontario plums are available throughout September in red, yellow and purple, and in all sizes. To choose a perfect plum, look for a smooth skin and a little bit-of-give when pressure is applied at the base of the fruit. Try these recipes to get you and your “sugarplums” tuned into eating this marvelous Ontario-grown fruit. Bon Appétit!
Delicious Plum and Sausage Kebabs (from Foodland Ontario)
3/4 lb (5-6) mild Italian uncooked (or other meat) sausages
8 small bulb Ontario Onions, 2-inch (5 cm) green stem attached
4 large Ontario Red or Blue Plums, pitted and quartered
For the basting sauce, mix together:
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 tsp liquid honey
Pre-cook sausages by boiling them in a saucepan for about 10-15 minutes. Poke each sausage with a fork to release any fat. If onions are large, partially cook them, then cut in halves or quarters. Steam or microwave onions with 2 tbsp water for 2 minutes.
For skewers: Cut sausages into 1-1/2-inch chunks. on metal skewers, alternately thread sausages, plum quarters and onions onto skewers. Place on oiled rack in preheated barbecue over medium heat; grill, brushing with basting sauce, for 3 or 4 minutes per side or until onions are barely tender. Serves 4. Serve over couscous or rice and your favourite veggies.
Devine Plum Pie
¼ cup all purpose flour
½ cup white sugar
1 tsp ginger
½ tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup sliced almonds (optional)
6 cups (10 med plums) pitted, quartered, unpeeled plums
¾ cup dried apricots cut into strips
2 tbsp lemon juice
Mix together flour, sugar, spices, then almonds in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix together plums, apricots and lemon juice. Add plum mixture to flour mixture and toss gently. Spoon into a spray-greased a 13x9” baking dish.
Phyllo pastry topping:
1 tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 sheets phyllo pastry
¼ cup melted butter or margarine
Tip: Work fast! Phyllo dries out quickly and must be kept covered to stay moist while you are working with it. Keep “work in progress” pastry completely covered with plastic wrap and lay a slightly damp tea towel on top. Don’t let the damp tea towel touch the phyllo sheets or they’ll go mushy!
Mix together sugar and cinnamon. Lay one sheet of phyllo on a wax-paper covered work surface. Brush the entire phyllo sheet with some of the butter and sprinkle one-quarter of the cinnamon mixture over it. Continue laying on sheets and topping with butter and cinnamon until done. Lay stacked phyllo layers on top of fruit mixture. With scissors, trim one inch beyond the edge of dish, roll edges under fruit and press into sides of dish. Using a sharp bread or steak knife, cut slits in the top of pastry and score 8 squares. Place the baking dish on a rimmed cookie sheet to avoid bubble-over mishaps. Bake at 350 F for 30-35 minutes or until golden. (Lay a large sheet of tin foil on top if the pastry browns too quickly.) Serve warm with icing sugar sifted overtop, or with frozen yogurt.