Sunday, August 15, 2010
Plumb Luscious Plum Sauce
Plum season has come and gone here, and I didn't get a chance to write this up in time, but hopefully some of you in more northern climes are still getting some plums, or maybe you froze some until you figured out what to do with them...let me tell you, this is what to do with them.
I froze a good number of plums for smoothies, and made plum jam, and the darn things were so delicious that I went back to the Certified Arkansas Farmers Market the next week and bought another box of plums from The Russian Farmer. Froze some more, and decided that I wanted to do something really special with the last of them, since there wouldn't be any more fresh local plums this year. So I did what I always do when faced with such a quandary: I took it to Twitter (and by extension, Facebook, since my Twitter updates post there as well). I was rewarded with the most amazing plum sauce recipe EVER, from the lovely Joie of Canned Laughter. I only made a couple of tiny, inconsequential changes to Joie's original recipe, and I'll note those for you as we come to them.
JOIE'S PLUM SAUCE:
* 4 lbs. Dark Plums
* 8 oz. Onions
* 1 scant cup Golden Raisins
* 2 tsp. each: Whole Allspice, Peppercorns, Mustard Seeds
* 1/2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
* 1 inch piece of bruised Ginger Root (~1/4 oz.)***I at least tripled this amount, and chopped it up--we love ginger!
* 2-1/2 cups Brown Malt Vinegar (or substitute Apple Cider Vinegar)***I used both
* 2-1/2 Tbs. pickling salt
* 1-1/3 cups soft Brown Sugar, light
Start with four pounds of beautiful, ripe (but not overripe) plums. Joie's recipe called for "dark plums," which is good, because that's what I had. Wash, chop, and pit them--no need to peel them at this time (or ever, if you do it the way I did).
Find a kid to peel the ginger for you, because peeling ginger root is a pain in the nether regions. Use a whole one-inch chunk to follow Joie's recipe, or three times that much, chopped, if you're doing it my way.
Bundle the whole spices (allspice, peppercorns, and mustard seed) in a bit of cheesecloth, tied up and secured in a nice little bindle. I fasten mine with a zip-tie, and cut off the excess cloth.
In a heavy, non-reactive (no aluminum, no non-coated iron, no copper) pot, combine chopped plums, chopped onions, raisins, ginger, half the vinegar (My bottle of malt vinegar wasn't quite enough for this recipe, so I made up the rest with organic ACV),cayenne pepper, and the sachet of whole spices.
Bring this mixture to the boil, then reduce temperature and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, or until plums are soft and pulpy. It just gets more and more beautiful as it simmers.
This next part is where I disobeyed Joie's instructions. My sauce turned out amazing, and I'm sure it does when done her way, too--heck, her way might be better. But I am lazy, and I also hate to waste anything, plus I like a strong ginger "bite" to sauces like this. So, to follow Joie's instructions, at this point you'll want to remove the spice bag, and strain the cooked sauce into another container, rubbing the contents through a fine sieve before returning the strained mixture to the original, rinsed pot.
What I did was simply to remove the spice bag, and puree everything until it was perfectly smooth. Use a blender, a food processor, or the easiest option, an immersion (stick) blender, right in the cooking pot.
Whichever route you choose, at this point you'll add in the salt, sugar, and the remaining vinegar. Bring the mixture back up to the boil, and keep it at a good bubbling simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. It should reduce down a good bit, and thicken up some.
Ladle hot sauce carefully into hot, sterilized jars, adjust lids and rims, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes (more if at higher altitudes--check your local extension office guidelines). Rest for 24 hours before storing in a cool, dark place (mine just live in a kitchen cabinet). Joie says that her recipe yields 2 pints, or 4 half-pint jelly jars. My batch, as you can tell from the picture at the top of this post, yielded 7 half-pint jars...probably because I pureed everything instead of straining anything out.
I really appreciate Joie sharing her recipe with me, because this plum sauce is simply divine! And look how pretty it is! This would make an amazing gift, if you are a better person than me and can resist the urge to hoard it all for yourself. I'm imagining many wonderful uses for this delicious sauce...on lamb, on chicken, or to elevate pork roast to another level altogether. And desserts? Oh, the options are endless.