Fruit

Spiced Plum Preserves

 

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Now that my energy is starting to come back, I find myself in the kitchen more and more. Baking and cooking, developing new recipes, tweaking and perfecting old ones, trying new techniques and experimenting. I have been so … dormant for the past 4 months, I’m having to rediscover my footing. Aside from weeknight dinners, I hadn’t been cooking at all. I didn’t have the strength to stand in front of the stove, carefully watching a roux, or rolling out and shaping a pie crust, or whisking cream to a perfect peak. Anything that took more than 15 minutes start to finish was more than I could handle. But, with time, I’ve been spending more and more time back in the kitchen. A little here, a little there. I feel like I’m finding my stride again.

And in perfect time too. Our many fruit trees have entered their harvest, and we have more lemons and plums and apples than we know what to do with. Last weekend, Shawn came in from the backyard with about 50 red plums. Sweet and fragrant and perfectly ripe. We gave a few away to friends, ate a few for dessert, and found ourselves with dozens more and no idea of what to do with them. I decided that that was the perfect time to get started on preserves.

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I chose preserves instead of a jam or jelly because I didn’t want to mess pectin. A simple recipe that I could put together in an afternoon. I had bought a set of Ball jars about a month ago, so it was just a matter or prepping them for canning.

This is a great recipe for anyone new to preserves and canning. Deceptively simple. Fresh, ripe plums transform into a sweet, syrupy spread. Cinnamon and allspice add a little spicy zip on the finish. Brown sugar creates more of depth than just white sugar. Summer fruit with an autumn spice.

What have you been doing with your seasonal fruit this summer? THG

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Spiced Plum Preserves
3 lbs. fresh red plums
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
zest and juice of 1 small lemon
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp. whole allspice

Prep and sterilize 4 500ml canning jars according to directions.

Remove stone and slice plums into 1/2 inch thick slices. Place in a large sauce pot. Add sugar, brown sugar, lemon zest and juice and mix well. Place cinnamon stick and allspice in a large piece of cheesecloth and tie the ends, creating a bundle. Add to the plum mixture.
On medium-high heat, bring plum mixture to a rolling boil. Boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer pot until mixture reaches 220-230F and passes setting point test (to test setting point, place a small amount of cooked liquid on a plate and put in freezer for about 3 minutes. If the mixture doesn’t run when removed from freezer, it’s ready. If it still runs, continue to cook for another 5 minutes and test again). When mixture is ready, remove spice bag and spoon into prepared jars, leaving 1/2 inch space between the preserves and the top of the jar. Wipe down the neck and screw on the lid, finger-tight. Submerge in boiling water 15 minutes to process. Let cool to room temperature. Store in a cool, dry space. After opening preserve, store in the refrigerator.

Makes approximately 2 liters of preserves.

Cherry Sharlotka

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Summer, summer, summer! I love summer! Some of the greatest foods come out of those hot mid-year months. Peaches, plums, apricots, watermelons. And cherries. How I love me some sweet, ruby red cherries.

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I mean seriously. Are you not drooling right now? Those are so delectable. And fresh cherries are the best, straight from the farmer’s market, still warm from the sun. During the summer, my favorite dessert is just a bowl of Bing cherries. They really have a taste all their own: sweet, a little tart, deep and rich. They taste like summer, like June, like the sun. Have you picked up yet that I love cherries?

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So now, this is my take on a Russian sharlotka. Traditionally a sponge-like cake stuffed to the brim with apples (see this Smitten Kitchen recipe for a fantastic take on the original recipe). I was intrigued by the recipe, but thought it was a bit out of season, more of an autumn dessert with the apples. I thought of what else I could use to replace the Granny Smiths and decided…cherries. It must be cherries.

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Do you see that cake jam packed with cherries? So fruity and light, without being too sweet. I cut down the sugar content in the cake batter since we were dealing with sweet cherries instead of tart apples. A dash of cardamom for spice, a little bourbon vanilla for fragrance. Dress it with some creme fraiche mixed with honey for a creamy and sharp topping. Too good!

What’s your favorite summer fruit? THG

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Cherry Sharklotka
1 lb. fresh Bing cherries, cut in half and pitted
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. bourbon vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1 1/2 tsp. honey

Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease and flour two medium (5 inch) ramekins. Split the cherries halves between each ramekin, filling to the top.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs and sugar until thick and ribboned. Add vanilla and whisk in. Add flour and cardamom and whisk to combine. Pour batter over cherries in ramekin, filling to the top. Tap ramekins on the counter to break up air bubbles and allow batter to settle throughout the cherries.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Let cakes cool for 15 minutes and turn out of ramekins onto a cooking rack. In the meantime, whisk together creme fraiche and honey and set aside. Serve at room temperature with creme fraiche topping.

Serves 4