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Should you fall for the final stone fruit of summer?
The nights are getting colder and I’ve reached for an extra layer more times in the past few days than I’d like to admit. I know, the weather is a boring topic to begin with, and it’s even more of a bummer to talk about the fact that summer is almost over.
I can’t help it, though—as much as I love cozy sweaters and hot apple cider, nothing turns me into a petulant child faster than being cold (or hangry). So with the first hints of autumn's arrival it’s all I can do not to cross my arms and pout, and wonder if I just wore my sandals for the last time this year and more importantly: Did I eat enough corn, tomatoes, and apricots?
While I’m not guaranteed another day warm enough to make ice cream start dripping as soon as it's served, at least Mother Nature is here to pacify me with a gift: one final round of stone fruits. Prune plums are available now, and despite their lackluster attempt at a first impression, you won't want to miss out.
Prune plums might not look like much: They’re smaller, firmer, and more egg-shaped than other types of plums (see 1 versus 2, above) and their beautiful inky-purple coloring is hidden behind splotchy patches of white bloom. And you might not be impressed with an initial taste, either: They’re certainly fine for eating out of hand, but they aren’t particularly juicy or especially sweet.
But, cook them, and you, too, might be pacified into thinking that crisp mornings and falling leaves just might be okay. Like a Hypercolor t-shirt changed by the warmth of your hand, the yellow flesh (4, below) of prune plums morphs into a vivid fuschia once cooked. Being less juicy becomes a good thing when they're cooked as well—their flavor intensifies rather than seeps out. And as a final bonus, you won't have to fight with the pits: Prune plums are freestone, so their pits are easily removed (3, below).
Now that you're convinced this fruit is, well, plum perfect, here are some ways to start cooking with prune plums.
- Make a prune plum cake, galette, or cobbler.
- Or go for a classic and bake Marian Burros’ Plum Torte—no matter how it turns out, it will taste good.
- Poach prune plums in strong coffee with a little brandy. You can swipe them out of a container to enjoy yourself, but if you feel like sharing, are five ways to serve them to company.
- Grill them, and serve them on toast with lemony ricotta.
- Stuff prune plums into a potato dumpling.
- Use them to make a plum sauce for pork tenderloin.
- Follow MrsWheelbarrow's lead and use your prune plums to make Slivovitz: "a plum schnapps or brandy made all across Eastern Europe, and under different names, in Germany, France and Italy."
Tell us: What are your favorite ways to use prune plums?
Photos by James Ransom