To me, plums bridge summer and fall.
Although available at local farmers markets already in late July-early August, their dark skin ranging in color from maroon to indigo to downright black and a tart bite make me think of jamming, back to school, and drab autumn days full of overcast skies and non-stop drizzle.
As kids back in Moldavia, one of 15 republics of the former USSR, my sister and I spent our summers in a small village that sat on a prolific land that was nothing but kilometers of vegetable fields and fruit orchards. My father was stationed there as meteorologist, shooting rockets into clouds to try to prevent crop-damaging hail.
There was such an abundance of produce all around us that we rarely had to buy. Peaches, plums, apricots, apples, pears, cherries, grapes, watermelons, to name just some of the fruits! All of it did belong to the government, but once the officials were done picking, the locals were unofficially welcomed to snatch the remainder.
There was always enough for everybody.
So whenever we went plum picking, my sis and I knew there were only a few weeks left before school. As I picked, I thought of boring school days to come and afternoons full of pitting the fruit and skimming the foam off jam. Jams were made funny back then: They were cooked on and off for hours, sometimes days, and had to be closely watched for the foam to remove.
Over time—as I grew older—I came to enjoy these early autumn days that were often cool and wet. I would do my homework in the kitchen, checking on the jam religiously, skimming off the foam, tasting it over and over again. Naturally, removing the foam was the sweetest chore a kid could have.
And I would feel so comfortable . . .
Funny or not, but plums also bring apples and pie crusts to mind. As a rule, plums come right before apples, and apples are a quintessence of fall.
When I think of the plums in these images, I think of a kind old gentleman who picked them for me from his backyard tree. I asked that he would give me a couple with leaves still attached, but he cut off a bunch of branches with plums still on instead. By the time I got around to photograph them, the majority of the leaves on the branches had wilted and started to fall off. I was okay with that.
Now they looked even more fall-ish to me.
I guess I am just up for a season change. I hope autumn arrives with buckets of water. Would be nice to watch the rain streak down my huge kitchen window as I bake, bake, bake . . .
A big thank you to Rita and her friend for these lovely plums!
Recipe for Olga’s Original Oat-Plum Streusel Slices *
1. 1 cup (105 g) sorghum flour
2. 1 1/4 cups (150 g) tapioca flour
3. 2 cups (200 g) gluten-free rolled oats
4. ½ teaspoon xanthan gum
5. ¾ cup (115 g) loosely packed light brown sugar
6. ¼ teaspoon kosher sea salt
7. 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
8. 10 tablespoons (about 140 g) butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
9. ½ cup (65 g) roasted hazelnuts
10. ¼ cup (55 g) demerara or any other coarse sugar
11. 1 tablespoon rose buds for garnish, optional
For the filling:
1. 1 lb (450 g) tart plums, washed, dried, and coarsely chopped
2. 1 tablespoon lemon juice
3. ¾ cup (160 g) natural cane sugar
4. ¼ cup (10 g) food grade dried rose buds, crumbled, optional*
5. a drop or two of rose water, to taste, optional
1. In a small pan, combine plums and lemon juice and cook on low heat until soft, about 3-5 minutes.
2. Add sugar and cook until dissolved. Add crumbled rose buds and simmer for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and add rose water to taste; leave to cool. It will thicken as it cools.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Out of parchment paper, cut 2 11-inch squares and press each into an 8-inch square cake tin, creasing as needed. Set aside.
5. Place flours, oats, xanthan gum, sugar, salt, vanilla, and butter in a food processor and pulse until oat mixture resembles coarse meal.
6. With a wide square-end spatula, a solid turner or your hands, press two cups of oat mixture into bottom of each tin. Compact mixture as hard and level as you can. Divide filling in half and spread over oat mixture.
7. Place hazelnuts and demerara sugar in a food processor and pulse until hazelnuts are finely chopped. Mix hazelnut mixture in with remaining oat mixture and sprinkle it over plum filling. Press gently.
8. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Garnish with dried rose petals if desired.
Makes: 18 2 ¾ -inch squares
1. * developed at an altitude of 4500 feet above sea level
2. Dried rose buds can be purchased in the bulk spices and tea section of most health food stores or online.