Here's a dish for folks who like to get their hands dirty. Kids would probably have a blast helping. I happen to find this dish a bit sweet for me, but it is generally quite popular. It IS cooked with wine so if you're an intrepid cook not old enough to buy your own, you'll need to pull in a sidekick.
The alcohol of the wine cooks off so, no, you'll not be getting drunk off this.
Prep/Cook Time: Roughly 45 minutes
1lb fresh plums (or 1 large can of canned plums)
1 cup Red Wine
1/4 cup honey
1/3 teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons rice flour
Canned plums: drain but save liquid
Fresh plums: wash
Put plums and wine in saucepan, bring to a boil then allow to simmer until soft (about 5-10 minutes)
Remove plums from saucepan
Remove pits and skins from plums
Mash plums through strainer back into saucepan with wine
Add honey, cloves and salt
Remove ¼ cup of the mixture from the sauce pan
Mix rice flour into ¼ cup of plum mixture
Mix rice flour mixture back into sauce pan
Cook, stirring well, over medium heat until it thickens
Quick note before we begin:
I am accustomed to making this dish with canned plums, which became a problem as the closest thing we could find was intended as a filling and it ended up being terrible. If you go for canned you want something like these.
Now here we go.
If you are using fresh plums then the first thing you want to do is WASH THEM. Yes, this is actually important, save your self from a case of the flux and always wash fresh produce before you eat it! Sure, maybe 9 times out of 10 it's not an issue but that 10th time, as you're on your porcelain throne, you'll wish you spent that extra few minutes washing that delicious treat.
(If you're using canned plums just separate the plums and syrup, saving the syrup for later)
Anyhow, now that we're clean...toss the plums into a sauce pan and pour in your wine. We always made this with red wine. However, if you're a fancier person than me (I don't actually drink wine) you can use different wines with different plums. A world of possibilities. The wine's job in this dish is to make sure the plums don't scorch in the pan. So make sure you keep an eye on them. The wine doesn't need to cover the plums, it just needs to cover the bottom.
Let the liquid come to a boil, then turn the heat down and let it simmer. Again, keep an eye on things as you only want this to go until the plums soften. Basically what we're doing is “scalding” the plums. We're getting them to the point where we can remove the skins without to much issue.
When they're ready, use your slotted spoon to remove the plums into your bowl. Let them cool long enough so you don't burn yourself. Here's where things get messy and you might let the younglins assist. We need to remove the skins AND the pits from the plums. It may be helpful to use a knife to get to the pits, or you can just squash the plum in your hand. Gooey. After they've been skinned and pitted, place the plums in a strainer. Push them through the strainer and back into the sauce pan with the wine.
At this point, take a couple of minutes and get yourself and your space cleaned up. Fruit mess only gets stickier the longer it sits, so don't leave it for later. Why make yourself miserable?
Alright, now we're going to mix the honey, cloves, and salt into the plum mixture. Stir it well so there aren't lumps of spices hanging out.
At this point, if you're using canned plums, you're wondering why I told you to save the liquid. We always mixed the rice flour into this syrup and added it to the saucepan. If you're using fresh plums (or you don't want to use the syrup) ladle out about ¼ of the mixture from the pan and mix the rice flour into it.
If you've never worked with rice flour before, it can be a bit finicky. DO NOT just dump it in and then try to mix it. It lumps up and you'll never get it to mix. You need to slowly pour it in and stir at the same time.
Once you get it mixed, stir this concoction into the saucepan and let it go. The rice flour will thicken everything up so it's more like a pudding and less like a plum soup. As it's cooking, however, make sure you stir often. When you're happy with the thickness, pull it off the stove and pour it into your serving dish.
Erbowle also saves and reheats well so if you have leftovers, lucky you!
I DID notice one of the sources actually uses Powder Forte in their recipe. If you read the Hypocras recipe then you're familiar with Powder Douce (Sweet Powder), which is a sort of catch all sweet spice mix. Powder Forte or Strong Powder is similar but made with “hot” spices. I have never used this but if you want to try it I'll include it here.
Just remember this is made to keep a container on hand and then for this particular Erbowle recipe use 1 TEASPOON of the powder forte instead of including the cloves.
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
2/3 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
½ Tablespoon ground cloves
1/3 tablespoon each of ground cubeb, grains of paradise and black pepper
If you've never bought rice flour before try looking in the baking section and/or the gluten free section. Reportedly, plums are the worlds second favorite fruit, right behind apples. It looks like plums started in Central Europe and Asia, but there is also a type of plum found in North America that was popular with Native Americans. With such a historic pedigree and popularity you'd think I'd have ton of fun facts, but not really. Plums give us prunes and prune juice is, of course...
If that classic Star Trek joke never made sense to you it's referring to the fact that prunes contain a dietary fiber which helps in bathroom situations. It “keeps you regular”. There you go, one less mystery.
Plums, or more specifically plum trees, do have symbolic importance in China and Japan. They are believed to protect against evil and so are often planted in particular areas of gardens. Also given that Plum Trees blossom between winter and spring, it's easy to see how they would be very welcome and viewed as a positive renewal of life.
Plums show up in a number of similar Native American tales which feature a Trickster god seeing plums in some water. After repeatedly diving in and surfacing with nothing, he eventually realizes he's an idiot and has been diving after a reflection. The actual plums are in a tree above him. Interestingly, it's pointed out that plums are one of the few fruits whose skin is shiny enough to have a reflection and can play tricks on the eye. This story is apparently also found in Mayan culture, except instead of plums it features the moon, which one character tells another is delicious cheese at the bottom of a pond. Hilarity ensues and the moon-is-made-of-cheese meme begins.
On that note here ends our very first monthly meal! 4 recipes to help add atmosphere to your hungry hoard and level up your cooking skills. Stay alert for April's menu and good luck Adventurers!
Next Week: I'm on VACATION! Actually I'm at a family wedding but that's okay too!
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Stefan's Florilegium Archive
The Encyclopedia of Winnebago Mythology