Plumbing the Magic of Plums


There’s no end to the magic that plums can add to all sorts of recipes.

I love biting into a plum that is so juicy a napkin is required to keep its nectar from running down my chin. Besides snacking on plums, I find there’s no end to their magic as an ingredient. Once they’re simmered or baked, plums develop a beguiling essence as thick as li­queur.
Sprinkling plums into pies, cobblers and crisps is the stuff summer is made of. Have you ever tried making plum tarts? You’ll wonder why you never thought of it before.
Plums enhance fruit salads for des­sert. But it’s surprising how well they mingle with vegetables and vinaigrette. They add unimaginable dimension to chutneys.
Plums are cousins of apricots, peaches and cherries. They become a tantalizing trio in recipes. As August kicks into gear, I buy plums by the bushel. There’s an explosion of plum varieties available: Damson with their purple or black skin, the sassy red Satsuma, the eerily toned Greengage and the dainty yellow Mira­belle. All of them are equally versatile in sweet and savory foods.
Plum Chutney
1 orange, unpeeled
5 ripe plums, peeled, pitted and diced
1 baking apple (such as Fuji, Gala,
or Rome) peeled, cored and coarsely diced
ginger root (11⁄2-inch), peeled and minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, peeled and diced
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1⁄2 cup dark brown sugar
1⁄3 cup Balsamic vinegar
1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄8 tsp. nutmeg
1⁄8 tsp. cloves
1⁄2 tsp. salt
1⁄8 tsp. cardamom
1⁄4 tsp. red pepper flakes, or more
if you like it hot
1⁄2 cup golden raisins
Cut the orange into 8 quarter-moon shaped wedges. Cut the wedges into 2 to 3 chunks. Remove seeds and place chunks in a medium-sized pot, along with the remaining ingredients — except the raisins.
Cover the pot and place on a medium flame. Bring to a boil momentarily. Reduce flame until mixture is at a low simmer. Stir often. Simmer covered for 60 to 75 minutes, until mixture is syrupy and no longer soupy.
Add the raisins and stir to blend. Cover the pot and simmer until chutney thickens, about 15 minutes. Remove from flame and keep pot covered, until chutney comes to room temperature.
Store in a covered, non-reactive container in the refrigerator. Plum chutney complements any poultry or veal dish.
Makes 2 cups.
Savory Plum Salad
4 plums (any variety or a mixture) skinned, pitted and diced
12 cherries, pitted and cut into 3 to 4 pieces
2 fresh apricots, pitted and diced
1 Tbsp. red onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh mint, chopped
1⁄4 cup pitted kalamata olives,
cut in half
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Place all ingredients in a bowl and toss well. Add more mint and lemon juice, if desired. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill before serving.
Serves 4.
Berry Plum Crisp
1 Tbsp. butter for greasing 
9-inch deep dish pie pan
Fruit Ingredients:
1 package (6 oz.) raspberries
1 pint blueberries
1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced
4 peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
4 plums, peeled, pitted and sliced
1⁄8 cup granulated sugar
(Have more berries, plums
or peaches on hand, if needed)
Topping Ingredients:
11⁄4 cups chopped blanched almonds
1 cup flour
1⁄4 cup dark brown sugar
4 oz. unsalted (sweet) butter, slightly softened and cut into 4 pieces
dash of salt
Optional accompaniment: vanilla ice cream or whipped cream
Preheat oven to 400˚. Coat pie pan with 1 tablespoon of butter.
Gently mix the fruit ingredients in a large bowl. Move to the pie pan and spread evenly. The fruit should fill the pan 3⁄4 of the way up. If needed, add more fruit. Bake for 15 minutes.
While the fruit bakes, place the topping ingredients in another bowl and mix together with your fingers, until well blended and a clumpy consistency forms.
Remove the pie pan from the oven and gently stir fruit. With your fingers, sprinkle the topping over the fruit as evenly as possibly. Do not touch hot fruit. Return to the oven and bake until the topping browns and the fruit bubbles, about 35 to 40 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.
Serves 6 to 8.
Free-Form Plum Tart
Dough Ingredients:
11⁄2 cups flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1⁄4 tsp. salt
1 stick (8 Tbsps.) unsalted (sweet) butter, cold
1⁄4 cup ice water
1 sheet of parchment paper
Filling Ingredients:
6-8 plums
2 tsps. sugar, or more if you prefer a sweeter rather than slightly tart flavor
Optional accompaniment: vanilla ice cream or whipped cream
To Make the Dough: Place the dry ingredients in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. With the food processor off, combine the dry ingredients with a spoon.
Cut the butter into 6 pieces and add to the dry ingredients. Fit the cover on top.
With the food processor running, slowly add the ice water through the tube. A ball of dough will form in about 2 minutes. Stop the food processor.
Place the parchment paper on the counter. Gather the dough and roll into a ball. Place dough ball on the parchment paper and with your palm, flatten it into a thick disc. Using a rolling pin, spread the dough into a 91⁄2- or 10-inch circle, which may not be a perfect circle. At the perimeter, curl in the dough about 1⁄4-inch all the way around, creating an edge. Push the edge together using your fingers. Lift the parchment paper and place on a cookie sheet, tart dough and all.
To Make the Filling: Preheat oven to 350˚. 
Peel, pit and thinly slice 6 plums. Use the remaining 2 plums, only if needed.
Place the plum slices on the tart dough, starting in the center and working out toward the edges in an attractive circular design. Place slices all the way to the curled edge of the dough. Don’t leave any spaces between plum slices. They may overlap a bit. Sprinkle with the sugar.
Place the tart in oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the plums are cooked through and dough is nicely browned. Serve while still warm with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.
Serves 6 to 8.
Linda Morel is a writer based in New York City. Email her at:


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