What do you do with forty pounds of plums? You experiment.
In an attempt to capitalize on this year’s bumper crop of Italian prune plums, I have been trying several new recipes, like the clafouti I tried a week or so ago. Last night, I tried a couple of conserve recipes, but I’m only going to share one of them.
Italian plums are tricky when it comes to judging ripeness. Even the ones that fall from the tree still have green-colored flesh under the dark, dusty purple skins, but occasionally one goes yellow on the inside, but those are not especially sweet. However, if you cook these little guys, they make up for their tart edge with an especially “plummy” taste, so I’ll forgive them. Besides, a little bite never hurt.
So, as mentioned, I tried a couple of recipes. One called for lemon rind and in my opinion that just added a bitter aftertaste, something not needed in a tart plum conserve. The second one was both simpler and better.
Italian Plum Conserve
This conserve (whole fruit stewed in sugar) has a simple sweetness with added tartness of the plums and spice from the star anise. It’s great in/on crepes, on toast or pancakes, as the interesting half of a PB&J, over ice cream, or as the base of a plum vinaigrette.
- 5 cups Italian plums, washed, pitted, roughly chopped
- 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
- 5 anise star blossoms
- Mix all the ingredients in a large, nonreactive bowl
- Let the mixture sit and macerate for an hour or so
- Put mixture into a wide skillet or saucepan (the wider the better)
- Slowly bring mixture to a boil over a medium heat
- Let boil, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes, until cooked down and syrupy
- Run a cold plate test (below)
- Store in fridge
The “cold plate test”:
Before you start, put a couple of saucers in the freezer. When the conserve has cooked down, take one out and put a little dollop of the mixture on the cold plate. Give it a minute or so to cool on the plate. Tip the plate to the side. If it’s runny, you need to cook more. If it starts to gel and thicken, you’re there.
After doing this test a couple of times, you’ll know what result will set up as a loose conserve and what will set up as a firm jam. There are many factors that can affect the cooking, including temp and humidity, so this is a good benchmark to use.