The long Labor Day weekend began when I took the Butter Bitch to the airport and returned home to paint inside our house. I did not think about today's post until Sunday evening, when the bathroom had been painted and the closet was scraped clean. I thought of making lard, or buying lard, or going on a chocolate tour, but without advance preparation my plans were unlikely to bear fruit. Normally, I cook fish when the Butter Bitch is away, and I thought of writing about the Northwest's bountiful salmon.
Unfortunately, our local Co-op had no local salmon, defeating my inspiration for the coming week. I wandered through the produce section, tired from a long, hot weekend, and my eyes espied a mound of purple inspiration. The fruits were labeled "Italian Prune Plums," but more importantly, the fruit looked just like the ripe plums growing in our back yard.
I returned home and dug up an excellent recipe in the blogosphere, to make for the Butter Bitch's return on Monday.
The Butter Bitch guessed that the fruit was either plums or prunes, and unbeknownst to her she was right on both counts. Monday morning, I took a bowl to our back yard and filled it with plums. I knew they were ripe, because I had tried one the week before.
The Italian Prune Plum is slightly tart, with firm flesh, and is not very juicy. Our plum trees (we have two) may be Early Italians, aka Richards, but I don't have a picture of Early Italians to confirm that. The Early Italian originated near Yakima, Washington, while the Italian Prune Plum is an old world species. Both varietals are late bloomers and grow on cold hardy trees. Additionally, Italians are mite resistant, a benefit I hope not to need.
Jessica, over at Kitchen Heat, has this to say about the Italian Prune Plum:
The glory of the Italian Prune Plum lies in its size. Because it is small, and less juicy than other plums, when it is baked, it concentrates in flavor and texture, so that the fruit maintains more of its shape, and because there is less liquid, the flavor is more intense.
She is dead-on regarding the intensity of flavor.
After enjoying several plums in the back yard, I took them inside and washed them for use in a crisp. Much to my surprise, the bowl contained twice as many plums as the 6 cups needed for making crisp. Fortunately, we have a book on preserves that includes recipes for spiced plum jam, and we will be making plum jam soon.
I followed Jessica's recipe closely, but varied on two points. Unlike Jessica, I had ground cardamom but I did not have walnuts. I substituted finely chopped almonds for walnuts. According to the Butter Bitch, nuts are interchangeable when it comes to crisps. She may be wrong in her "nut-agnosticism," but in this case the crisp worked well with the almonds, which are milder and sweeter than walnuts. The walnuts might have made the dessert less sweet and more savory. We have plenty of plums with which to find out.
The crisp was intensly tart and sweet, the perfect dessert to remind one of the passing of summer and the approach of autumn.