Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mom's Pick

My mom sells amazing jewelry and miscellany at the Wellfleet flea market all summer. Vendors at this market run a pretty broad gamut. There are t shirt and sock folks, faux Rolex watches and designer handbags, antique dealers, vinyl record and tape cassette sales persons, shoes, rugs, kitchen appliances... you get the gist.

Rather recently, there are also gardeners and farmers pawning the fruits of their labor. My mom is a sucker for a good deal and this produce is certainly a bargain. Not to mention she is a very sociable person and is inevitably lured in by the open, friendly personalities selling honest food.

A couple of days ago she came back from work with tomatoes, some summer squash, a few very ripe peaches and way too many, extremely ripe plums. She told me that the woman selling them would have thrown them out, that they were free and that she was sure I could find something to do with them. I was less than thrilled.

Task at hand... make use of plums. Furthermore, make use of peaches soon to be equally as over ripe. I reluctantly accepted the challenge and began washing off each piece of bloated, soft stone fruit. I would not have chosen to bring these pieces home. They were uninspiring and seemed to have little to offer any 'good' recipe. Maybe a fruit smoothy, but that is hardly a challenge. I decided to spend a little time looking up recipes. Maybe I'd find something that would move me.

After an hour or two plowing through my few unpacked cookbooks and scouring the web, I had a couple of ideas. I also gained a little cache of plum recipe knowledge that I know will come in handy somewhere down the road.

I decided that the seven or eight plums that were literally balls of juice wrapped in taught dark purple skin should become some sort of condiment. I peeled the skin off and then slowly simmered any and all contents until I had a 'jam'. While it was simmering, I added a bit of brown sugar, some cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg and a dash of cayenne. It took a bit of time for it to thicken, but the result was great.

Spiced Plum Jam
was delicious on a cracker with a piece of aged Manchego, it was also a treat warm and drizzled over vanilla bean ice cream. I envision it working as a sweet foil for a simple grilled steak or stirred into warm rice for a subtly sweet and spiced flavor base.

In addition to the jam, I also made use of the remaining, slightly firmer peaches and plums in a simple crumble. I combined the stone fruit with frozen blueberrys that gramma and I had picked over Fourth of July weekend, then added a bit of honey, lemon zest and torn basil. I made a quick topping with flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and butter. I put the fruit into a gratin dish, mounded the topping over it and baked it until it was golden and bubbling.

Talk about satisfying... I felt like I had saved the world. Well, maybe just a few forlorn plums but, nonetheless, it was an accomplishment. Nothing went to waste, I learned quite a bit along the way and we all got to eat some pretty delicious fruit well past its prime.

The moral of this story is that moms do, sometimes, know best.

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