Thursday, 10 September 2015

Hermitcraft: Champagne Plums

Here's a quick hint from Rob's Hermit Kitchen:

The plums have ripened here in the Northern Hemisphere, and those with trees are being inundated by their annual surfeit of sweet, juicy fruit. Plums (also called prunes or damsons) are relatively labour-intensive to preserve, and other treatments are either specialty projects (wine) or not especially compelling compared to other options (jam).

But here's something you can do with them that's delicious and easy:

  1. Place a number of fresh, unwashed plums (any kind) in a non-reactive bowl.
  2. Mix up a slip of flour and water, about as thick as pancake batter, and pour it over them. 
  3. Cover the bowl and leave it to work for a day or two.
  4. When the batter is bubbling merrily, remove the plums with a slotted spoon and rinse them clean.
  5. Eat.
Why are they now so succulent, and slightly tingly(!)? And what's up with that batter?

Well, to begin with, the powdery white "bloom" you see on dark plums is yeast. (Yellow varieties have it too, it's just not as visible.) So when you immerse the fresh fruit in flour-based batter – a nutritional Prunes Viktualienmarkt Munichmedium – the yeast goes nuts and multiplies like crazy.

Meanwhile, water from the batter soaks into the plums, causing them to swell and opening tiny fissures in their skin. Dark streaks of plum juice in the cream-coloured batter attest to this process. (Some plums may actually split wide open, leaving little doubt about what's going on.)

Yeast from the working batter penetrates the broken plum skin, hits the sugary juice inside, and begins to ferment.

Then you eat it. I don't know how much alcohol this process creates, but it isn't much; I've eaten many of these in a sitting without feeling any effect at all.

When the plums are gone, you're left with a unique and tasty sourdough starter that makes great pancakes and coffee cake. In fact, with a little advanced planning you can pit the fermented plums, poach them in a light syrup, and use them as filling for some epic crêpes made from the batter they just came out of.

So have at it. Rarely do you get so much good for so little effort.

Prunus mume in the market

(Plum photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons users Sakurai Midori and Zebulon.)
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