Ingredient Spotlight: Plums

Cook, Ingredient Spotlight

Ingredient Spotlight: Plums

Golden yellow and bright green to pink, purple and scarlet, there are hundreds of varieties of plums available this time of year. And each one serves its unique purpose, whether for eating fresh, cooking into jams or baking in desserts.


Read on for our best tips for selecting, preparing and cooking with plums — along with some of our favorite recipes, like this beautiful Plum-Almond Croustade. Scroll to the bottom of this post for the full recipe!


Look for: To find a ripe plum, hold one in the palm of your hand. It should feel heavy and there should be some give, particularly at the blossom end. Tasting is the best indication of ripeness, so if you’re shopping at a farmers’ market, ask for a sample before you buy. To soften hard plums, put them in a paper bag and let sit at room temperature for a couple of days. Perfectly ripe plums can be refrigerated for 3 to 5 days.


Prep tips: If you are using plum slices or halves in a pie or tart, leave the skins intact; they give the finished dish a pretty color. But if you’re making a plum puree for an ice cream, jelly or jam, the skins will be too tart and should be removed. When plums are fully ripe, the skin should easily pull away, although it may need to be coaxed with a knife. If the plums are very firm and the skin clings stubbornly to the fruit, slice a small X in the skin and blanch for 1 to 2 minutes in boiling water. The skins will slip off easily. Always taste plums before cooking. Tart varieties usually demand the addition of sugar, sometimes more than a recipe indicates. Balance the flavor of sweeter varieties with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.


Uses: In general, cooking plums are smaller and more acidic than the larger, juicier plum varieties. The latter are best used uncooked in tarts, shortcakes and other desserts and for eating out of hand. Eat Santa Rosa or Burbank plums fresh; cook yellow-skinned Shiro varieties into preserves; and use the deep purple Italian plum for cooking and baking. Smaller plums such as Greengage, Mirabelle and Damson are also ideal for desserts, infusing in liqueurs and boiling into jams and jellies.


Variations: Apriums are a relatively new fruit at the market, a cross between an apricot and plum. They taste like a combination of their parent fruits and are great for baking.


Cheese BlintzesCheese Blintzes
These blintzes are stuffed with cheese version and topped with a sweet-tart plum compote and sour cream for a delicious start to a leisurely day.
Heirloom Tomato and Plum Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette, Goat Cheese and Arugula PestoHeirloom Tomato and Plum Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette, Goat Cheese and Arugula Pesto
Chef Sean Brock created this colorful salad to showcase a creative medley of summer ingredients at their peak.
Jerk-Spiced Pork Kabobs with Plum RelishJerk-Spiced Pork Kabobs with Plum Relish
A plum relish, with its refreshing lime juice and mint, helps tame the heat of chilies and other spices in this jerk seasoning.
Flank Steak with Radicchio and Plum SaladFlank Steak with Radicchio and Plum Salad
This salad from Chef Barton Seaver combines the crisp, bitter crunch of summer radicchio with the taut texture of sliced plums to provide a flattering companion to grilled flank steak.
Plum SorbetPlum Sorbet
Sugar syrup and fresh plums make the base for this refreshing sorbet, flavored with a dash of liquor to create an even creamier texture.
Plum CrumblePlum Crumble
A combination of plum varieties gives the most interesting flavor to this crumble, perfect for dessert or for breakfast on a lazy summer Sunday morning.
Plum-Almond Cake (Torta di Prugne e Mandorle)Plum-Almond Cake
Halved and nestled in the batter, plums turn ruby red and jammy as they bake in this homey cake.
Plum ButterPlum Butter
Cooking plums with sugar creates this rich, sweet butter, which will give your morning toast a delicious flavor boost.


Plum-Almond Croustade


1 1/4 lb. (625 g.) plums, pitted and cut into wedges 1/2 inch (12 mm.) thick

1/4 cup (2 oz./60 g.) granulated sugar

2 tsp. unbleached all-purpose flour

Pinch of kosher salt

1 recipe pie dough

1/4 lb. (125 g.) almond paste, broken into 1/2-inch (12-mm.) pieces

1 large egg white, lightly beaten

2 tsp. turbinado sugar

1 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into small pieces


In a bowl, toss together the plums, granulated sugar, flour and salt. Let the plums stand while you roll out the dough.


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). On a large, lightly floured sheet of parchment paper, roll out the dough into a round 13 inches (33 cm.) in diameter. Slide the parchment paper with the dough round onto a heavy rimmed baking sheet.


Scatter the almond paste pieces evenly over the center of the dough round, leaving a 2-inch (5-cm.) border of dough uncovered. Using a slotted spoon, distribute the plums evenly over the almond paste, again leaving the border uncovered. Reserve any juices in the bowl. Using the parchment paper as an aid, fold the uncovered border of dough up over the plums pleating as needed and pressing gently to secure in place.


Brush the dough border lightly with the egg white, and sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the egg white. Drizzle any reserved juices from the bowl over the plums. Dot the plums with the butter. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the juices bubble in the center, about 50 minutes.


Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on the baking sheet on a wire rack. Slide the croustade and parchment onto a flat platter. Serve warm. Serves 6-8.


Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Garden Cookbook by Jeanne KelleyFind more recipes celebrating the homegrown and homemade in our cookbook The Kitchen Garden Cookbook, by Jeanne Kelley.

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