This post is dedicated to my ‘Beauty’ plums (Prunus salicina “Beauty’) which have, during the last few years, given us an abundant supply of summer’s nectar: this succulent plum is the kind that you throw into your mouth, and the sweet pulpy meat just explodes, saturating your taste buds with its warm juice.
In order to celebrate these little sweet bombs, I made plum liqueur that closely resembles Japanese umeshu, which my grandma used to make. I still remember sipping it “on the rocks” with her during horribly humid Japanese summers to help cool off (Oh, I was a minor!). I adapted the recipe from youngish Japanese plum farmers in Wakayama, the country’s No. 1 plum production center. My plums are technically a different species from those in Japanese umeshu, but yield a very similar taste. After all, I only made one minor change to last year’s plum schnapps recipe: I submerged the plums in vodka with white rock sugar. I’ll keep you posted on how this worked for doneness, and will complete the recipe according to my findings from this experimentation.
I have also braised the plums with pork using the idea from my all-time favourite book: Sensational Sauces by Linda Collister. Braising the pork with dry fruits is the book’s recommendation, but here I experimented with fresh plums and the dish emerged with a pleasing taste reminiscent of sweet and sour pork. Plums mask the sweetness in chicken broth; thus it got quite tart, but I used them together to create the gravy that gives the dish an appetizing kick in the heat of summer.
In the meantime, we are truly enjoying last year’s plum schnapps.
Braised Pork and Plums
Serves 4 -6
6 pork loin chops
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, wedged
1 ½ cups chicken stock
A dozen plums, rinsed
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
Preheat the oven to 350F. Rinse the pork and pat dry. Salt and pepper the pork, and coat with flour on both sides.
Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed ovenproof pan over medium high heat. Sear the pork on both sides until browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Sauté the onion until transparent, add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Make sure to scrape any bits of sediment from the pan and dissolve in the stock.
Bring back the pork chops, and then scatter the plums, balsamic vinegar and thyme in any openings in the pan. Place the pan in the oven and roast until pork is done, for about 35 minutes.
Remove the pork and reduce the liquid to make gravy, about half the original amount. Discard the plums and serve the pork on individual plates. Serve immediately with gravy.
The hard part about making this jelly is to skim it tirelessly in an effort to prevent it from displaying an unpleasant bitterness.
Makes 9 x 250ml jars
2 large bowlfuls of ‘Beauty’ plums
Rinse the plums well and place them in a heavy bottomed pot. Bring to a simmer and continue until pulp separates from the pits, for about 35 to 40 minutes.
Strain the plums through a piece of doubled cheesecloth overnight (I use a stool flipped upside down and tie the corners of the cloth to the cross bars to form a bag, placing a pot underneath).
Measure the liquid with a measuring cup, place it in a large pot and bring to a boil. Then, add 1 cup of sugar for every cup of liquid. Continue to boil to dissolve the sugar. Make sure to scrape from the sides of the pot so as not to leave any sugar behind. Continue boiling until the setting point is reached, for about 15 minutes. Skim as necessary. Remove from the heat. Test the doneness. Drop a teaspoonful of the jelly on a cold (refrigerated) plate and spread; then, push with your fingertips. If it crinkles, it has reached the setting point. Even if the liquid may seem loose, it will get thicker when cooled down.
Pour into warm, sterilized dried jars. Seal and store in a dark, cool place.