plum perfect. four – or more – preserving projects.

The wonderful Washington State Fruit Producers sent me a present last week. As a Canbassador, they sent me 20 lbs. of perfect plums and 10 lbs. of gorgeous nectarines from the Yakima Valley and asked me to can away. What a glorious bounty with which to face a hurricane. This is the first post reporting on my #hurricanning adventures. (P.S. Thank you, Charlotte, for that brilliant hashtag. I’ve preordered the new cookbook you wrote with Anita Lo. So happy for you!)

Let’s talk about these plums. This plum variety is often generically referred to as Italian Prune Plums, but in Alsace and the Rhine Valley, where we recently vacationed, they are called Quetsch (or Qwetsch.) When we visited Christine Ferber’s little shop in Niedermorschwihr, Alsace, France, I swear I smelled the honey sweet smell of plums wafting from the kitchen. It’s a teeny town of narrow streets and overflowing window boxes, well up into the Vosges mountains, nestled in the midst of vineyards and orchards.

Patient husband waiting outside the adorable shop of Christine Ferber.

Dennis was a great sport, and put up with my need to make the pilgrimage to her shop.

I wandered around taking it all in, purchased a few jars of jam, some honey, and this gorgeous copper ladle. (It’s not only gorgeous, but one ladle-ful is exactly enough jam to fill a 1/2 pint  jar to 1/4″ headspace! I want to hug it.) I also picked up two small cookbooks (in French) with beautiful photos and more wonderful flavor combinations. The adorable shop assistant asked me if I wanted them autographed and so I have SIGNED COPIES! But, sadly Madame did not come out of the kitchen. (sob) I decided not to take it personally. So, Christine Ferber’s books were definitely the inspiration for my day of plummy preservation.

The first thing I did was taste. I haven’t talked about this much, but I consider it one of the most important parts of preserving. Taste your product. Is it very sweet? Tart? Adjust your choices for sweeteners based on the fruit. Honey adds depth to flat-tasting fruit. Maple syrup will round out tartness. Brown sugar tastes like caramel. And white sugar elevates.

The plums were tart when firm and bright green inside, but the flavor honeyed and the color turned more golden as they ripened. (Ok. I ate three. Not one. Research.)

I was a little overwhelmed with the bounty, so decided to make Slivovitz immediately. Needed that sense of accomplishment FAST. And then I ate a few more plums.

Barely made a dent in the bowl. I made a small batch of Alsatian Quetsch Jam from Mes Confitures. It’s gorgeous and tastes amazing.

And I only had 15 pounds to go. I ate some more plums and a couple of nectarines. And pondered flavorings. I wanted conserve, a preserves that always includes nuts and sometimes dried fruit. I had missed making any conserves last year, and a cheese platter really benefits from this condiment, especially for texture.

While in Breisach, Germany, on the Rhine river, I wandered into a fabulous farmer’s market. The foods were beautiful and especially the plums – green gage and mirabelle, two exceptional varieties.

I had a goofy conversation with a farmer – he in German and me in English and French – and somehow managed to tell him about my jam-making adventures. We talked cherries, the season had just ended, and he ushered me over to a small table with his homemade schnapps – Sour Cherry – and conveyed his pride in having won a local prize. This was the flavor that called out to be combined with sweet dried plums.

The pile of plums still seemed insurmountable. And pretty. I thought about sugar plums, and decided to do a variation on that theme.

Another 6 lbs. to go. Or so I thought. I weighed the remainder and was a little appalled to realize I had eaten three pounds of plums. With the last three pounds of plums in front of me, I pondered pinot noir. And cabernet. And merlot. And all the wines that we call plummy.

Then I thought about the other notes in those wines – pepper and spices. And that took me to chai. And from there, this conserve was born.

**Toast hazelnuts in a 350°F oven for about 15 minutes, until fragrant. Wrap the hot hazelnuts in a soft cotton kitchen towel and rub them vigorously until the skins come off. This takes elbow grease!

Thank you to the Washington State Fruit Commission for the gorgeous fruit and all the opportunities for inspiration.

plum perfect. four preserving projects on Punk Domestics

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36 thoughts on “plum perfect. four – or more – preserving projects.”

  1. How lucky go get Madame Ferber to sign your copies! How glorious was her little shop? Would love to visit it one day. Cathy, your canning adventures are truly inspiring. I would have never attempted to ever can anything had it not been because I read your encouraging posts! The Chai Spiced Plum Conserve looks luscious!

  2. So funny that you started off with making booze! Love it. But then there is just boozy plums, and then plums with Kirsch. I dare say, Mrs. Wheelbarrow, that you pickle your eaters as well as you pickle your produce!!

    That said, I think I need some of the peach liqueur that you gave me last year. It will go very nicely with the peaches I just grilled!

  3. I wanna cry I am so frustrated. The plums here are awful. All I have at this point is a ton of concord grapes that are just turning purple :–(

    Amazing stuff here Missy!

    1. Don’t cry. Eugenia Bone has a fabulous conserve of concord grapes and walnuts in her book “Well Preserved” plus a couple of ways to use it. I highly recommend that book for interesting small batch combinations.

  4. Oh my gosh…what a glorious post! Have not done anything with plums yet this year but love these ideas. I did not realize Christine Ferber had a shop…how wonderful you got to visit!

  5. I love this blog! You take us through your entire thought process of inspiration and motivation for each recipe. I love to hear how people move from taste to thought to taste again and produce such wonderful flavors and products. I have a good friend who does that very well and I love cooking side by side with him. Thank you! I want to make all of it.

    I tried to make plums canned in simple syrup one summer: three kinds, yellow, Italian prune, and green gage. Unfortunately, they didn’t hold up. So, I emptied one whole jar in a bowl, took out the pits, added the right amount of cream and made ice cream! It was really, really good! In fact, I have one jar left so I may have to buy some cream right now!

  6. Thank you, everyone. It was a ton of fun. Linda, I didn’t think the plums would hold for long – thank you for telling me. I’ll enjoy them soon. Or make ice cream! (Genius)

  7. Because Fine Cooking’s prune plum cobbler with cardamom is one of my all time favorite desserts, last summer I made plum preserves with cardamom. This summer I did a lovely plum jam with lemon verbena.
    I have tried slivovitz, but I tasted nothing reminiscent of plum–only fire!

  8. #Plumapalooza!!!! SO glad we made the pilgrimage to Ferber too, although it was bloody hard to find! Tiny signage!! I have nearly the exact same picture from the store (plus, ahem, about 6 jars of that jam sitting in front of me with nowhere to go as our house is a disaster-construction zone!). No recipe books for me (to add to the already 8 I had in my bag at that point…) but I will continue to follow your adventures with her books and maybe might end up getting one myself. We had a Quetsch tree in our house in Colmar and made the Abby Dodge fruit cake with them. Unbelievably good. I can only imagine how they tasted chez Wheelbarrow!

  9. Great post – love that you visited CF’s shoppe, not that I knew she had one. In a way, it is kind of cool that she was so busy in her kitchen that she signed your books but couldn’t walk away from her “jamming”. We have all been there, right?

  10. Hey!
    Lovely post Mrs. W!
    Is it legal to make plum brandy in your neck of the woods. I love your recipe, your style and the bounty of ideas in this one post!
    My husband is from the Balkans and I have seen a few stils doing their thing over there in my day. WHoo – baby! That stuff is brain remover. No doubt about it…. but it smells so lovely! Your version is an entirely different thing; however, and I love the idea. YUM!
    So many good ideas here, today!

    1. Well I asked a silly question, some research on my part has shown that damsons are just right! Thanks once again for the inspiration!

  11. I went to my favorite orchard yesterday and bought a peck of the quetsch plums. Than I stopped at another orchard on the way home and bought another peck of seconds of mixed plums. I have already turned 2 quarts of the seconds into a plum jam that was cooked with bay leaves.

    I have 2-1/2 pounds of the quetsch plums in the oven to dry them, But just an FYI, an electric oven’s lowest temperature is 170.

    I am going to take recipe on local kitchen’s blog for nectarine, pear, & chili jam and switch into plum, peach & chili jam instead. I think plums and chilis have a natural affinity to each other.

  12. We just drove through the Yakima Valley on our way home and the orchards are beautiful! What a fabulous gift you received and I love what you created with it.

  13. OK, I love that you made slivovice…this is the drink my grandpa used to “test” my dad (his future son-in-law) when they were first introduced by my mom. I have had occasion to try many homemade versions when I was travelling in E. Europe as well. I would love to get some prune plums for baking E. European treats too but they are so hard to find. Meanwhile, that Ferber trip looks pretty amazing…nice souvenirs!

  14. I’m sort of freaked out by not refrigerating the slivovice as it cures (plus I don’t think I have the “cool place” these things usually require–no basement here!) Can I put it in the fridge?

    1. Hi Sara, Don’t be freaked out. It’s all booze and sugar in there. There is nothing that will go bad. But if refrigerated, the necessary fermentation won’t happen. Back of a closet is probably cool enough.

  15. Read your slivovitz recipe in last week’s Wash Post Food section, started a batch today, then found your blog! Question – the Post’s recipe called for 4 cups vodka; I managed only 2 1/2 cups in a half gallon jar. That should be okay, right? Perhaps more plummy that way? Or should I transfer to to a gallon jar and have all that airspace? Also, what kind of cardamom have you used with it before – green, black, or white? the whole pod or just the seeds? Love the sound of the extra spice. Thanks bunches.

  16. I have several bottles of your “slivovitz” in my closet, waiting for December. After I drain off the liquer, will be plums be edible, or will the taste be pretty much leached out? Should I be planning recipes to use up the plums, which I assume will have to be refrigerated and used pretty quickly without their embalming fluid? I’m thinking miniature shortcakes, cut in half, and filled with lemon custard or a lemon curd mousse, and a few slivers of plum for little shortcake sliders…

  17. the chai spiced plum conserve is epically awesome! it’s so mysterious. at the time of prep i didn’t have cardamom (odd!) so i dashed out and got a bottle of ground. for a 1.5x recipe, i added 1/2 teaspoon. i used 1 whole star anise, since i stock that and not anise seed. i used the innards from 2 twining’s prince of wales tea bags. and because the bay leaf i use is fresh (a/k/a the money tree), i put in 5 fresh leaves and took them out just before i buzzed the fruit with the immersion blender. then i folded in the hazelnuts (smashed and sifted), a titch more pepper and cardamom and bottled that magic stuff. yesterday, 10 more pounds of plums were procured — y’know, just in case! many thanx.

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