August 22, 2018

Dear friends,
Once upon a time we planted a plum tree. I wanted a Mirabelle plum like the perfumed yellow plums I tasted in Paris in 1997. Tony wanted a Japanese plum and he’s the one with a shovel, so we bought a Satsuma.

That was 10 years ago. It took us two years to discover we must plant two plum trees — and both had to be Japanese — if we wanted fruit. We planted a second Satsuma and waited for them to get busy.

We don’t know who’s to blame for being coy. We do know it took eight long years for the sparks to fly between the plums. When it did happen, it must have been like Angelina and Brad in that secluded bungalow in Tahiti, because the result was hundreds and hundreds of little plums. I mean a lot. So many that the limbs of the plum trees are cracking under the weight.

The plums are about the size of a walnut, with purple skins and a deep magenta interior. They are tart-sweet, with a flavor not as complex as that of a Mirabelle but still delicious.

Remember Leave a Zucchini on Your Neighbor’s Porch Day? Tony has been leaving boxes of plums. If you want some, give us a call. Meanwhile, I have been preserving plums. I made a roasting pan full of baked plum confiture to package and freeze and one tray of prunes. I will not dry more plums, even though they’re delicious, because removing the pits is god-awful. It takes forever, and a week later, my cuticles are still purple.

Baked plums are the way to go. Even if you don’t have a couple of profligate plum trees, you may want to buy some prune plums for this recipe. It involves minimal work. I simply washed the plums, removed any stems or blemishes and dumped them into the pan I use for roasting turkeys.

The plums baked down to a thick compote that can be spread on toast, spooned over yogurt, used as a glaze for roast pork or turned into an ice cream topping. The skins dissolve into the fruit. The seeds may be removed before storing, or just spit them out when you encounter them (warn your friends so they don’t break a tooth).

My roasting pan was 10- by 14 inches and I used 1 1/2 lbs. of fruit. But you may use any size roasting pan and fill it with at least one packed layer of whole small plums such as prune plums. I filled my pan with about a layer and a half. The plum confiture may be frozen in rigid containers or freezer bags.

ROASTED PLUM CONFITURE

1 1/2 lbs. small plums such as prune plums or Satsumas
(or as many as needed to at least cover the bottom of your roasting pan)
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar or to taste
(Flavorings such as a vanilla bean, cinnamon stick or star anise if desired)

Wash plums, removing bits of stems and blemishes. Place whole plums with pits in a roasting pan. The plums should at least cover the bottom of the pan. Add water. Place in a preheated, 350-degree oven and roast uncovered for 2 hours.

Stir in sugar (and flavoring if using). Continue roasting about one hour longer, or until the plums have melted into a thick mass. If necessary, add more water during cooking to prevent the plums from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. Makes about 1 1/2 quarts confiture. Cool, then refrigerate some to use now and freeze the rest.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Dried plums; plum confiture; cherry tomato, fresh mozzarella and pesto salad; avocado toast; egg salad; pan-fried German sausage sandwiches with fried onions and peppers, Silver Queen corn on the cob (from Seiberling Farm in Norton) and watermelon.

What I ate in restaurants last week:
Tandoori chicken, rice pilaf and potato-stuffed naan at Jaipur Junction in Hudson; half of a spicy Italian sub from Subway; two chili-cheese dogs and a couple of fries at The Hot Dog Shoppe in East Liverpool; grits, one over-easy egg and one biscuit at Bob Evans; a sausage sandwich with onions and peppers at the Rogers Community Auction and Flea Market in Rogers, Ohio; a plain cake doughnut from L&B Donuts in East Liverpool; two more chili dogs and fries at The Hot Dog Shoppe; a ribeye steak, plain baked potato and buttered green beans at Pondi’s in Lisbon.

THE MAILBAG
From Molly:
I just read your blog and in response to finding burrata, Heinen’s carries it for those readers who fancy a drive. Pretty sure that a few dairy stands at West Side Market have it too, but again, there’s that drive. Penzey’s is across the street from the market, though, so that’d be a good second stop for those who venture north.

As for Caribe, some years back I bought a whole pig from Whittaker’s stand at West Side Market and dropped it off at Caribe. They cooked it and I served the delicious meat at a party. I don’t remember what Caribe charged to roast the pork but I remember it being reasonably priced. It was superb.

Dear Molly:
An entire roast pig from Caribe! That would be heaven.

From David F.:
I would recommend Sherman Provision in Norton for lamb, but you might need to call ahead and order what you need. One of my earlier visits to this butcher shop was over the Greek Orthodox Christmas, and I opened the door to allow a customer to leave the store with a whole lamb — not something I was used to seeing walking into a chain grocery store!

Sherman’s is old-school. It’s family-run, with people behind the counter who actually know the meats cuts, and can offer advice on preparation. They are also some of the nicest folks you’d want to meet.

Dear David:
You aren’t the only one to recommend Sherman Provision for lamb. And I agree that Michael and Mauri OBrodo and their employees are the best. The business can be found on the Internet at shermanprovision.com.

From Susan B.:
Regarding your question of where to buy lamb — the great West Side Market in Cleveland. Definitely there are a few vendors selling fresh lamb. I bought my veal there for years.

At various holidays, especially Easter and Christmas, lamb is featured. My Old Country family from Yugoslavia, Germany and Austria, which immigrated to Cleveland and Akron in the 1950s, shopped at the market weekly. My mother-in-law made the best weiner schnitzel, always with veal pounded thin. It was a tradition to serve it at Christmas with homemade spaetzle and her delicious cucumber salad. West Side Market has Old World food!

From Sharene:
I used to buy my lamb from the West Side Market at a lesser price than the supermarkets. However, it’s been over a year now so I cannot be certain of the prices these days. Good luck!

Dear Sharene, Susan and David:
I will try both Sherman Provision and West Side Market for lamb at reasonable prices. I guess I was hoping to luck into a situation like a few years ago, when a friend and I split a lamb from a farm her friend owned. The lamb was tender and delicate and the price was just about wholesale. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime steal.

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