31 August 2011

Plum overloaded

This morning I sliced and de-seeded about 20 plums. The last of our stash of roughly 20 pounds. That's a lot of plums. They arrived at my door by way of my friend Christiane. She was gifted 30 pounds of fruit and a ton of generosity.

The sliced Italian Plums, also called prune plums, were headed for the dehydrator. As Seth put on his bike helmet and gloves, getting ready to head out for work, he said, "It's like you're a squirrel getting ready for winter."

Exactly. That's what preserving food is about. Delicious berries? Not around come December. But sweet jams take their place. And there's the pickling and the flavored vinegars and the sauces and chutneys. So much goodness, it's going to be hard for winter to dampen my craving for summer foods.

So, those plums? Well, after I, too, gave away a generous amount to neighbors, I got to making a Chinese Plum Sauce. It was so delicious and simple. I canned mine, but this recipe would be just fine eating fresh. Get to it now, while the plums are ripe and ready. It's from Sherri Brooks Vinton's book "Put 'em Up!" This book offers some great ideas for preserving, and I love how it's organized by fruit or veggie. It goes well beyond jams and ice box pickles.

We slathered grilled chicken in this sauce and ate it atop brown rice and grilled summer squash. Nothing to complain about there, but the options are endless. It would be a delicious dipping sauce for just about any roasted veggie, spring rolls, chicken, pork, noodles and even sandwiches. And if my picky eater liked it, I'm going to call it kid friendly for the masses.

Chinese Plum Sauce
from "Put 'em Up!" by Sherri Brooks Vinton

2 pounds of plums, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons freshly grated ginger

2 garlic cloves
1 star anise

Combine the plums, vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and star anise in a large nonreactive pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened, 20 to 25 minutes. Fish out the star anise and discard. Puree the sauce with a stick blender. Refrigerate: Ladle into bowls or jars. Cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks. OR Can: Use the boiling-water method. Ladle into clean, hot 4-ounce or half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Notes: I chopped the plums by lightly pulsing the food processor. Then, I dumped almost all of them out and added the lightly chopped ginger and garlic. Then, I pulsed more to chop those more finely. I used anise seeds and made a sachet from cheesecloth for them and fished that out after cooking.

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