A quick mid-summer stroll through the farmer's market marks the arrival of stone fruit crops. Fresh peaches, delicate apricots, red cherries, and plump vibrant plums overflow baskets and stands. While some foodies can't get enough of summer's quintessential fruit, the watermelon, others crave the sweet drip-down-your-face juice of a peach or a plum. In season, the prized plum crop is mouth-watering sweet.
What if your recipe calls for plums on their off-season? One stone fruit can often be substituted for another, and mid-winter, dried varieties like prunes and cherries provide a no-frills go-to for any plum recipe.
Come December, a jar of jam made from fresh plums brings you back to summer's bounty. Apricots and pluots (a hybrid cross between a plum and an apricot) also taste nice in jams, jellies, and preserves. Apricots—one of the first stone fruits to emerge—have a fleshy texture with both a sweet and tart taste, and they are perfect for jams or preserves, as their texture deteriorates quickly once they're picked from the tree. If you're lucky enough to find apricots in their prime, substitute them for any jam recipe that calls for plums. Make sure to use more apricots than your plum recipes calls for since this sister fruit can be half as big, or just make apricot preserves instead.
In Savory Dishes
Duck, pork, and beef courses all taste scrumptious with a drizzle of sweet sauce to accompany them. Cooking meat in a dressing laden in fruit can infuse both sweetness and tenderness into the end product. For slow-cooked dishes like beef brisket, substitute prunes (which are just dried plums) or figs. Both are easy to find at the grocery store and the long cooking time will break them down and sweeten up your main dish. Due to the higher sugar content in dried fruit, use less than what your recipes call for in fresh plums.
In the summertime, grilled pork chops aren't complete without a sweet and tangy sauce. So if your sauce calls for plum and all you have is peaches, a straight across the board substitute will work just as well. Plus, the golden yellow of peaches adds an appealing presentation to your finished dinner plate.
You rarely see duck served without a fruit chutney or glaze, and plums compliment this meat so nicely. Other duck and fruit combos are equally yummy. So, why not just swap out the whole recipe? Plum glazed duck can be substituted with duck l'orange or roasted duck, tubers (like potatoes), and figs. Both make perfect crowd pleasers.
In pies and tortes, or on a sauce to top ice cream, plums provide the perfect amount of sweetness, paired with a "just tart enough" aftertaste, as do cherries or blueberries, either of which can be substituted in any pie recipe that calls for plums. Just make sure you measure the fruit by weight to obtain the right proportions.
For a dessert sauce that calls for plums, substitute peaches or nectarines instead. You don't have to worry as much about the measurements here, as the fruit sizes are more similar and sauces aren't an exact science. Plus, any sauce made from a stone fruit can be enjoyed both for breakfast and for dessert.