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Plum good

Autumn seems to have arrived here in our Sequim Valley quite suddenly, with trees putting on their fall red and golden colors overnight and the evenings taking on a decided nip to the air. Even our moods and feelings are apt to change more rapidly in the fall. Pleasant moments of nostalgia mixed with a sense of well-being and a sprinkle of the bittersweet seep into our lives.

It is my favorite time of year. The pungent, earthy odors of fall are uplifting to me. My herb garden is in its prime, the vegetable garden has finally produced abundantly and every morning I pick, pull or dig our supper. Our plum tree has outdone itself — and for fullest flavor we leave them on the tree until the stem ends are slightly shriveled and quite soft to the touch — then they are ripe.

Like the leaves in the fall, plums come in all colors and sizes and shapes. Some are golden, orange, grass-green, red, purple and even boot-black. They range in size as small as a marble and as big as an apple — some are round, others oblong. Their flavor is a pleasing balance of tart and sweet.

Here’s a delicious PLUM COBBLER WITH RASPBERRIES —

Place 3 cups quartered and pitted purple plums in a buttered 11-inch by 7-inch baking dish. Mix together 1 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract; toss with plums. Gently toss sweetened plums with 2 cups raspberries. Mix together 1¬Ω cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt; with a fork, stir in 1/2 cup ground almonds. Add 2/3 cup milk and mix lightly to make a soft dough. Turn dough onto a floured board and knead 10-12 times; roll dough into a rectangle slightly smaller than baking dish and lay it over the mixed fruit. Sprinkle sugar cinnamon on top; poke about 6 holes in the dough. Bake in preheated 400-degree oven about 30 minutes. Serve warm to 8-10.

Some cobbler-makers put the crust on the bottom, others put it on top. Either way, the crust must never be too precise. Rather, it should look a bit tattered and casual and rosy.

— from BEST OF SEASONS COOKBOOK by Judy Schultz



PLUM CRUMB PIE

Crust for one 9-inch pie, unbaked

FILLING

2/3 cup sugar

5 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon allspice

2 pounds red plums, pitted and sliced (6 cups)

In mixing bowl add above ingredients and mix well. Let stand 2 minutes then pile into the pie shell.

Drizzle with 1 tablespoon lemon juice.

CRUMB TOPPING

3/4 cup flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

In mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugars, cinnamon and nutmeg; add oil and lemon juice and work in with your fingertips until the mixture forms small crumbs.

Sprinkle evenly over the plums. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven 55-65 minutes. Let the pie cool 30 minutes before slicing.

— from my files



And for breakfast, a PLUM BREAKFAST CAKE –

CRUST

2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup butter

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In large mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and cinnamon; cut in butter until it resembles cornmeal. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth. Pat dough evenly onto bottom and up sides of a 13-inch by 9-inch baking pan.

FILLING

1 (16-ounce) container cottage cheese

1/3 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tablespoon flour

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1¬Ω pounds plums, pitted

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

In food processor, beat cottage cheese until smooth; add sugar, eggs, flour and cinnamon and mix well. Pour onto prepared crust.

Slice plums in quarters and arrange skin-side up in rows. Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over top.

With spatula fold pastry down from sides of pan onto fruit.

Bake in preheated 425-degree oven 25-30 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

— from my files



Plum sauces are especially good with poultry, pork and duck — put 2 cups pitted and quartered blue plums, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon grated ginger and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in small pan and simmer about 10 minutes, until plums are tender. Makes 1½ cups.

Do not peel the plums — the skins add color, flavor and texture.

Freeze some plums for that taste of summer in midwinter — just wash, leave them whole, bag them up and pop into the freezer. To serve, just rinse off, let defrost enough so you can eat them.

Make the most of these wonderfully tasty plums in our markets now — either in a pie like “Little Jack Horner” who sat in a corner eating his plum pie or just in a bowl, spiced and lightly cooked — whatever method, it’s easy to see why, with their good taste and versatility they have prompted the familiar phrase “plum good!”

Check out the new Friends of the Fields Web site at www.

friendsofthefields.org. Local ingredients are healthier, fresher and make your meals taste better! Make sure you have the best local ingredients from our productive local farms by supporting Friends of the Fields in its efforts to preserve local farmland today.



COPYRIGHT. MARIAN PLATT, SEQUIM, 2008

Marian Platt’s column appears the first and third week of each month in the Sequim Gazette. She can be reached at 683-4691 or via e-mail at mlplatt@olypen.com.

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