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Prunes are a variety of plum that is especially suited to drying. However, they are wonderful fresh, eaten out of hand! When cooked long and slow, they made a deeply pink, silken sauce that’s a far cry from the dried, shriveled prunes you might be familiar with. Oregon’s prune crop ripens in late August and remains in season for a brief time. Try them in one of these simple recipes!
Slow cooking fresh prune plums with sugar turns them soft and silky, their yellow flesh becoming fuchsia-colored as they collapse. Fresh ginger and some of the “warm” spices used in baking (cinnamon, cloves and cardamom) have an affinity for plums. Stir the compote into yogurt, spoon it over ice cream or spread it on toast. For jam, add additional sugar and cook the fruit slightly longer.
Because they’re tart and intensely flavored, prune plums are ideal for baking. They seem to exist for crumbles, having just the right amount of juice and acidity to balance the butter and sugar of the topping. That their pits need no coaxing from the amber flesh is an added bonus. Use them in clafouti, kuchen and coffeecake. Top a frangipane tart with prune plums, or an upside-down cake. Or try our Crumble Tart. Prune plums work well in place of most stone fruits.
Fresh ripe prune plums soaked in booze are a comforting reminder of summer when the holidays roll around. Start with one pound of clean, dry prune plums. Prick each plum all over using a pin before putting it in a wide-mouth canning jar. Add 1/2 cup granulated sugar or more, according to the natural sweetness of the plums, and pour 1-1/2 cups brandy, rum or vodka over the top. Make sure the liquid covers the fruit, put a lid on the jar and store in a cool, dark corner for at least six weeks. Three months or more will yield even better results.
Whether poached in vanilla syrup, pinot noir or duck stock, plums in puréed form become silky-smooth sorbets, dipping sauces and soups. Heat and a hint of sugar tease out their character and transform them to a beet-like shade of magenta that begs to be feasted on. You’ll be sold on the color alone.