Making a Plum Tart

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.

About 1/3 of the plums I picked this morning

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.

This is after I made the tart, but there's plenty to make more!

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.

This is all that's left!

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.  🙂

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About lizardqueen

If single-mothering were a paid job, I'd be rich. However, it doesn't, so I write (which doesn't pay the bills) and teach (which does). I'm overly-educated in the liberal arts, but that doesn't hinder my ability to be pragmatic and realistic. YAY.
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