I made a statement recently on social media that plums were my favorite fruit. I guess I said the same thing about cherries, at some point, which I was reminded of. But I’ll confess that I may have also said the same thing about nectarines, figs, mangoes, and litchis at some point in my life. However plums really are my favorite fruit, and I’m happy that they stick around from summer all the way through the beginning of fall.
There are a lot of plums out there. In Northern California we had big purple Santa Rosa plums, as well as an array of others with names like Elephant Heart and Angelino, as well as pluots, a hybrid of apricots and plums. While they don’t show up in Paris, there are green Reine Claudes (which are close to being at the top of my list for favorite varieties of plums), tiny golden Mirabelles, and sturdy Quetsches, which hold their shape relatively well during baking. And while they’re not as tart as U.S. varieties (most of the tartness of plums is in their skins), they are reliably good, and flavorful, when baked or oven-roasted, as I often prepare them.
While I was grabbing what likely are the last nectarines of the season at the market the other day, there were plenty of quetsches in the next bin. They go by other names elsewhere, such as prune plums, and are closely related to Damson plums. You don’t have to get too hung up on the name; just look for violet, ovoid plums, and those should work just fine.
Plums have a lovely tendency, when cooked, to create their own beautifully-colored, naturally-thickened sauce, which is why I adore using plums to make jam. Here, a few spoonfuls of honey coax additional juices from the plums and mingle with them as the juices thicken after baking, and sitting for a bit.
For a variety of reasons, I have a lot of vanilla. And while prices have spiked in recently years, I feel well-invested in my baking future (and present) and added some vanilla bean powder, which is basically dried and pulverized beans. I like the little specks that show up here and there, but also the earthy vanilla flavor of the beans (versus extract) works really well with plums. But if spices are your thing, as they sometimes are mine, a cinnamon stick or other spices, can certainly fill in for the vanilla.
- 1 1/2 pounds (680g) prune plums (quetsches), halved and pitted
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or powder, or a vanilla bean, split lengthwise or 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 thin slices lemon or orange
- 1/4 cup (60ml) white wine
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC.)
- Put the plums in a baking dish that will fit them all in an even layer. Drizzle the honey over the plums and add the vanilla (or cinnamon stick), citrus slices, and wine. Gently mix everything together then spread the plums back out so they are in an even layer.
- Cover the baking dish snugly with foil and bake for 30 to 45 minutes, removing them from the oven midway during roasting to gently stir them. Depending on the plums, they may cook more quickly than noted here, so check them a few times to make sure they don't get overcooked. You want them soft and cooked through, but not cooked to mush.