This morning, after fixing the soaker hose that runs along the foundation of the house, I noticed that the plum tree in the front yard was heavy with fruit.
The Hubby and I have two plum trees, both planted early in our home ownership when they were wee saplings. One got hit with some kind of tree disease, and I had to lop off most of that tree to save it. The other stayed healthy and, after all these years, produced golf-ball sized plums up and down and all over its branches.
About half of the fruit had over-ripen and dropped onto the ground before I noticed it this morning. So when I started picking the remaining plums (discarding the ones that were obviously wormy, shrunken, or bird-pecked to death), I had to be careful not to step on too many of the ones on the ground because — well, they’re squishy and explode sticky,violet-red plum juice all over. Ewww.
By the time I was done picking, I had a basketful of plums. Now, I like plums but not enough to eat THAT many plums. The Hubby doesn’t care for them either (he’s more of a citrus-fruit guy) and, as I found out later, neither does Daniel.
So I did something I don’t usually do these days — spend all day in the kitchen, cooking from scratch.
We have the Hubby’s mom’s old Fanny Farmer cookbook, which is my go-to guide to finding unfamiliar recipes. I found a recipe for stewed plums, so I stood over a sinkful of plums that were immersed in water, and I picked out the squishier ones to quarter and remove the pits.
By the time I was done, I had a bowl of pitted, quartered, unpeeled midget plums swimming in its own juice that looked as if I sliced out someone’s spleen. The sink water was also violet-red with plum juice, and my fingers were stained and wrinkly. (Sorry, no pictures here.)
I transferred the undrained plums into a saucepan, added 3/4 cups of sugar (since leaving on the skins would make the plum compote extra tart), and set the heat on a low boil.
Meanwhile, I made a simple tart crust — Fanny Farmer calls it “Galette Pastry” and, unlike the recipes found online (just Google “Galette dough), the recipe I followed actually required less butter but included an egg yolk and 1.5 T of lemon juice. But I suppose any tart crust recipe you like will do. I made just enough to fit the smaller of my two shallow baking pans.
While the dough was chilling, I checked the stewed plums, aka plum compote. The volume had reduced by half, and the bubbles were big and slow to pop. After taking it off the stove, I let it cool a little bit as I set up a tall heat-proof container (it once held hot won-ton soup, so I knew it could take a little bit of heat) and a strainer.
Yes, I manually strained that compote, one 1/2 cup at a time. It was a royal pain in the ass, scraping the plum compote through a handheld strainer, over a Chinese-restaurant take-out container, in the kitchen sink just in case things got messy. By the time I was done, the entire compote (including the cooked plum skins) was strained, and it had the consistency of baby food and filled 3/4 of the container.
The color was AWESOME — wine-dark reddish-purple — and it alone tasted FANTASTIC.
By the time I was done — which felt like forever — the dough was well-chilled. So I took that out, rolled and hand-pressed it into the baking pan (which made a very thin layer of crust, including the rolled edges), and then spread out a thick layer of plum sauce.
I had the oven pre-heating to 400 degreesF as I sprinkled half a cup of cinnamon sugar on top of the plum sauce. The whole shebang baked for 25 minutes (following Fanny Farmer) but, in retrospect, I should’ve baked it for only 20, as the crust was darker than I would prefer (so it doesn’t look as nice as it tastes).
Cool for a few minutes and then slice into bars.
By this time, it was well past 3pm, and I had started this whole process at 10am. FIVE HOURS. I am impressed by all of those women in the past who had to cook like this, before the age of canned fruit filling and food processors!
The Hubby and I gobbled half of the tart, and I’ve been nibbling at the remaining half. There’s plenty of plum sauce, so when I make this tart again (as in TOMORROW — it’s that yummy), it’ll only take 45 minutes to an hour.
THANK GOD. 🙂