Produce: Plums, plus plum jam

To me, plums are like the last gasp of summer before fall settles in. They are related to other summer stone fruit, like peaches and apricots, but they have a much more elusive flavor.


The kind of plums you are likely to find really depends on where you live. The photo shows a few kinds we can get here. The yellow ones are called Reine-Claude here; in England they're called greengages. I've never seen them in the U.S. They are delicately sweet and very fragrant. They can be made into jam, but to me they are too delicious to have other than just fresh out of hand.

The black ones are called Zwetschge here, and are called damsons I believe elsewhere. When I think of plums, these are the ones that come to mind first. These have a very tart skin, though the flesh below that is sweet. They are the plums most suited for cooking in my opinion. I often make preserves out of them, following the method for apricot preserves. They're also an important ingredient in a dark, strong chutney that I make every other year or so.

I'm not sure of the name of the pinky-red ones, but they are adorable, with a pointy shape that makes them look like little hearts when cut open.


Finally, there are mirabelles. Mirabelles are miniature plums, each one the size of a large grape. They are incredibly sweet and smell like heaven.

mirabelle1.jpg The AA battery is just there for size comparison (it was the the only thing I could find to take a picture with the mirabelles, before someone ate them all up.)

As soon as plums are gone from the market stalls and supermarket aisles, the weather starts to cool down.

Filed under:  fruit preserves and pickles summer

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I too love plums. Our own plum trees didn't produce well this year (I think it was a weather-related polinator problem), but this weekend I was down at my grandmother's house, and her ancient plum tree (a variety we call "Italian plums;" from the looks it might be the same as the Zwetschge you talked about) is hanging almost to the ground with the biggest crop I can remember ever seeing on that tree. She sent me out to get some plums to take home, and I did have a few glasses of wine in e, but looking now at what I brought back up I'm amazed I picked so many; this is a bag of plums you could strength train with (and that was just the most perfectly ripe plums off off maybe two branches). I think I shall make chutney. That and eat a lot of plums out of hand.

David Karp wrote a great article in the LA Times a few years ago about plums and plum-apricot hybrids. One of the greatest moments of my life was visiting the experimental orchards of Floyd Zaiger, the creator of the pluot, and trying out hybrids that existed on the one tree and nowhere else in the world.

Plums are everywhere in France as well. They aren't my favorite fruit-cherries and peaches are my choice-but they are wonderful when they are juicy. I think I'm going to make a plum clafoutis. I did it with cherries this summer and the photo I recently saw of one looked really delicious.

You mentioned Green Gage Plums not being found in the U.S. Well, my mother was a great fan of these, I believe that they grew in her grandmother's garden in Kentucky. And she planted them when I was a small child in our garden and we enjoyed them in our tiny town just north of Seattle for many years. I suspect they may be found in farmer's markets, but haven't thought to look. Now I will!

Anna, I've never seen them at farmer's markets in the U.S...and never at supermarkets (not even Whole Foods). It could be they are just too delicate to transport? Though I think they are very popular in the UK and France. In the UK they seem to be turned into jam most of the timee.

Hunter, I can just see the branches heavy with black plums. Thanks for that story!

Linda, a plum clafoutis sounds great!

Chip, pluots are very nice though that bright red intereior still unnerves me a bit I just say...

hmm, I always thought that greengages and mirabellen were the same thing! Live and learn. :)