Cooking with Plums: Easy Recipes and Practical Tips
September will soon be here…and so will Empress Plums from Hale Groves! Empress Plums are pure, plummy perfection, but plum season is (alas) quite short, so you will want to make sure you don’t miss it.
Also known as Italian Prune Plums, Empress Plums are less round than other plums (more egg-shaped, in fact), with thin, purple-blue skins that turn purple-red when cooked and dense yellow flesh that’s juicy and sweet with just the right amount of tanginess.
Empress Plums are also known as prune plums because – you guessed it – this is the variety most often used to make prunes (the term for dried plums). If the word “prunes” makes you pull a face because it puts you in mind of octogenarians obsessed with getting enough fiber, you should know that prunes are actually very tasty as well as very healthy. They also go great in many recipes from sweet to savory (prunes are used in Moroccan lamb stew, for instance, though they may be described as “dried plums” in the ingredients list).
If you still can’t stomach the idea of noshing on prunes, no worries…Empress Plums are wonderful fresh out of hand (they make a nutritious, delicious and refreshing snack on their own), but they don’t need to be dried before you cook with them. Known as “cooking plums” in some circles, this European-style plum is the star in many recipes that use fresh plums (from jams to roasts to pastries) and make a decadent dessert sugared and cooked on their own.
Cooking with Plums
Little Jack Horner from the nursery rhyme knew what he was doing, going straight for the plums in his Christmas pie.
Plum pie is one of the fastest, easiest fruit pies you can make, as well as one of the most delicious. You won’t need to peel the fruits’ thin skins, and the tangy-sweet flavor of the plums is amazing in a flaky crust (particularly when you add a dollop of fresh whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream). But if, like Jack, you want to skip the crust, you can do that, too: just slice these freestone stone fruits along the seam, toss them with sugar, cinnamon and flour, top with a crumble (or don’t) and bake in individual ramekins for a decadent dessert!
Plum Tips: Preparing, Using and Storing
Plums last longer when stored in the fridge, but they taste best when they’re at room temperature. Store them in the fridge but move them to the countertop for twenty to thirty minutes before eating them.
Wash plums in cold water before using. Plums are a freestone fruit, which means removing the pit or stone is fairly easy – just use a sharp knife to cut the plum along the seam to separate it in half and take out the stone.
Ideas for how to use your Empress Plums:
• Make a salad. Toss plum wedges with arugula, crumbled feta or blue cheese, and toasted nuts. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
• Grill them. Slice the plums in half, remove the pit, and sprinkle the flesh with brown sugar. Grill cut side down until caramelized. Top with Greek-style yogurt and toasted nuts.
• Add sweetness to baked goods. Chopped plum adds moistness and flavor to muffins, cakes, breads, and other baked desserts.
• Poach them. Slice the plums in half, remove the pit, and poach the plum halves and a cinnamon stick for five minutes in simple syrup. Spoon over vanilla ice cream.
• Make them into jam. Sweet, homemade plum jam is delicious on toast or English muffins at any time of year.
Health Benefits of Plums
Plums are extremely nutritious, low in calories while still containing an impressive variety of vitamins and minerals as well as fiber and antioxidants. These include vitamins C and K and phytonutrients.
Here are a few ways in which adding plums to your diet can benefit your health:
• Plums may lower your risk of certain chronic illnesses because they are high in polyphenol antioxidants.
• Plums may benefit your blood sugar control because they are a good source of fiber and have been shown to reduce adiponectin levels (adiponectin is a protein hormone involved in regulating glucose levels and the breakdown of fatty acids).
• Plums may promote a healthy heart due to their potential role in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
• Dried plums may benefit bone health by preventing or reversing bone loss, which may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
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