October 9, 2012

About and Around Plums ...

Plum jam, Prunes, Štědrák etc..


If you're looking for something more simple but still tasty, 
I suggest a plum jam.
Preparation is quite simple and easy,
with no long standing and stirring beside a stove required.



video


Plums are still available at this time, and those called "Italian's" are the best for this recipe. They are popular all over Europe, especially in the Eastern part. In the Balkans, plum harvesting and plum brandy distilling days are considered unofficial holidays! Actually, some of the staples of the Serbian culture are plums, plum brandy and brass band music. Even Rebecca West mentions that in her book "Black Lamb and Gray Falcon". Plums are considered very healthy all over the world, but plum brandy, in this region, is also a medicine for many illnesses, if consumed in small amounts of course.
 Like the French word for schnapps "l'eau de vie"- literally means water of life.

 All around Serbia and Eastern Europe, every year, plum producers compete for the Best plum title and Plum brandy/šljivovica (шљивовица) producers for The best Schnapps award. These Festivals are usually accompanied, in Serbia, with traditional Trumpet music. So with this little slide show, I wanted to bring you little bit of that atmosphere too. The famous Music Festival " Guča", attracts today, beside Balkan brass bands, many international music groups and visitors. One of these visitors is our local Vancouver Brass band, called (how else?!), "Orkestar Sljivovica",. I've written about them before.
The British media was also fascinated with the festival and the atmosphere.

So, this is a little story behind today's post about plums, and since I'm not able to explain to you how to make plum brandy -although I'll certainly work on that in the future,- I've prepared instead, some recipes and ideas on how to use this amazing fruit. 

You can learn here how to make plum-jam, dry plums-prunes, and how to use your homemade (or not!) products in some really great recipes, like the famous Czech/Slovakian pie, Štědrák.

Prijatno and Živeli!




Easy Plum jam (made in oven or slow cooker)


Making jam doesn't always has to mean long standing beside a stove, stirring for hours etc..
This recipe use different method, set it and forget it, but a result is still a great jam.
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You can make it in an oven, over the night, or in a slow cooker, for little bit longer.

You'll need:
fresh, ripe and sweet Italian plums
                                            dry plums-prunes (1/10 of amount of fresh plums)
lemon peel-optional
rum-optional
sugar-optional
big clay pot or slow cooker
sterilized glass jars

(In one 5l pot or slow cooker, you can make approximately 0,75 to 1 kg of plum jam)
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THE OVEN method:

Get your plums very ripe, wash it, chop in bigger pieces and take out pits. Keep few pits aside for later.


In the evening put your plums, dry plums, few pits, sugar and other optional ingredients, in a big and deep dish. I prefer clay, but you can use any that doesn't stick easy. Cover, and put in an oven on 180C for about an hour.


Uncover and stir, lower temperature and put it back for few hour more. Occasionally take out and stir again. Cover tightly and leave over the night to cook on a very low temperature (~100C). Stir in the morning and check if it's thick enough. If not, leave it for longer without completely covering with lid. Rise a temperature again, and check and stir more often until is done.


Take it out and fill your prepared (sterilized) jars. Cover tightly with plastic foil or prepared lids, and leave on a counter to cool. Store in a cold place (fridge) and enjoy all year long!



THE SLOW COOKER method:



If you are making a jam in a slow cooker, be ready for two to three days of cooking. With a  checking your cooking couple of times a day, you'll have a perfect jam at the end!
On a first day do the same, like for the oven method, with a lid on, on a stronger slow cooker setting (2). After one day of cooking, leave a lid little bit open and lower a temperature to setting 1, so that water can slowly evaporate. Stir occasionally and after second day of cooking test it, if it has a jam consistency. If it takes more time, continue with cooking until is done. Transfer to jars, as explained previously.

You can test it, if you take out one spoon of hot jam on a cold plate and wait to cool. If it's thick and it doesn't contain water, is ready.

Check your stored jam occasionally for mold. As soon as you discover it, take out that part and part around, the rest of jam will still be good for consuming. Don't take out all the content, but try to consume it faster.









This jam is great on a piece of freshly homemade bread, in crepes or in potato dumplings-"knedle"and in the following recipes.

Beside a jam, you can also very easy make prunes-dry plums. Whole process is also very simple, it just takes time if you doing it outside, at a sun or faster in the oven.



Homemade Prunes - Dry plums



Here is how:

Spread your washed and dried plums (unpitted) on a big pan and put it in the oven on a very low temperature, a lowest you can set. Start with 45C-50C. Keep doors of the oven minimally open during this process so that moisture dries out from the fruit easily. Check and turn them occasionally. After couple of hours of drying, when they start to lose their shape, turn the heat up to 60C-70C and continue until ready: elastic but without water coming out of the plumes.
The best way to preserve them is to keep dry fruit in a fabric bags or paper boxes.

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Cooking with Plum jam and Prunes

Here are some interesting recipes where you can use your jam, if you become bored with eating it just for breakfast on a piece of bread.

Fruits and nuts salami

250 g chopped dry plums-prunes
100 gr ground hazelnuts
50 g chopped walnuts
50 gr chopped almonds
1 dl orange juice




Chopped ingredients mix with ground hazelnuts and slowly add orange juice, until mass is still hard but not too hard to shape into a salami about 3-4 cm wide.  Leave it in a fridge, wrapped in plastic foil until is hard and ready to cut. Cut 1 cm thick slices ready to eat and serve.



Plum jam ravioli-Gombóc

Popular Hungarian recipe, ideal to be made with your just prepared plum jam!

For pockets:
300g/ 11/4 cup unbleached flour
2 eggs
pinch of salt
1/2 cup cold water

Filling:
1 cup/250g plum jam
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbs rum

In a big pot, boil about 4l water.
From first ingredients, make soft dough, let it rest for half an hour. Than prepare dough on a floured surface to be about 2mm thick and mold out circles with a medium water glass. On every circle, place a tbsp of prepared jam and fold the ends to get half-circles.  Press the edges tightly to seal.
Cook the pockets in a boiling water for about 5 minutes. Take them out and place quickly in prepared breadcrumbs in a buttered hot pan. Coat on both sides and place on a plate and dust with icing sugar.
It's similar to "knedle" already mentioned on my blog, but it's more fruity.




Štědrák
 




Another delicious, but more complex cake/pie, comes again from Slavic Eastern Europe, more precisely, from Czech and Slovakian region, and it is quite spectacular. Usually is prepared for some special occasions, like Christmas, because it's pretty elaborate.

Below is the original recipe, however, I modified it slightly (*see green).

Without a doubt, this is the most delicious layered pie/strudel I ever had.



Dough: 20 g fresh yeast or 2 tsp dry yeast
80 g sugar
1 tbsp vanilla essence
500 g unbleached flour
100 g butter
250-300 ml of milk
2 egg yolks
salt
extra butter for rubbing

Mix yeast and sugar in a bowl, pour lukewarm milk, add a tablespoon of flour and let it proof covered.

Add other ingredients - the rest of the sugar, vanilla, flour, melted butter, warm milk, egg yolks, salt and prepare a smooth dough. Leave covered in a warm place to rise, about one hour. During fermentation prepare 4 fillings.

*Egg-phyllo dough:
I wanted very thin dough for this recipe, so I made a phyllo dough with eggs. (As shown on my Cooking 101 page).
After preparing a dough from 2.5 cups of flour, 2 eggs , 1tbsp of oil and 1/2 cup of water, leave a dough to rest for one hour. Split the dough in five pieces and roll out so that one piece is a bit bigger than the others and can cover your deep round dish where you will spread your first layer of filling. Continue layering, and cover last layer with a last dough sheet. 

1.Walnut filling:
200 ml of water
60 g icing sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
200 g ground walnuts (*roasted hazelnuts)
lemon peel
30 g breadcrumbs

In a pot add sugar with water, ground nuts, lemon zest and breadcrumbs. Stir well. If necessary, we can add more hot water to make thick but not dens filling, but it should flow.

2.Poppy filling:
100-150 ml of milk
100 g granulated sugar
1 tbsp of vanilla
150 g ground poppy seeds
pinch of cinnamon
30 g raisins soaked in rum earlier

Mix milk with sugar, dry ground poppy, seasoned with cinnamon, and chopped raisins.

3.Plum filling:
200 g plum jam
ground cinnamon
1 tbsp of rum

Plum jam as needed dilute with hot water (if jam is too hard) and season with cinnamon and rum.

4.Cheese filling:
300 g ricotta or other fresh cheese
40 g of icing sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
2 egg yolks


Mix cheese, sugar, egg yolks. If you have a lot of diluted cheese, squeeze excess water through cheesecloth. He should spread smoothly with consistency of a sour cream. Good, not too watery ricotta works the best.




Cake preparation and assembling:
Leavened dough, divide it into five parts, one of which is a little larger, the remaining four the same.
Roll the greater part into a big circle, larger than your buttered round pan very thin, and cover bottom of the pan and the edges so that dough sheet go beyond the edges of the pan.
At the bottom, first spoon walnut filling. Layer than poppy filling, plum and finally cheese, and in between fillings lay thin dough layers. The last part of the dough roll into pancake strips that put into the top of cheese filling crossed as a grid. Fold excess dough from first layer that hangs outside of pan now inside over the dough strips and brush with melted butter.
Bake at 175 ° C, 45-60 minutes. During cooking, cover cake with aluminum foil, and finally uncover until becomes golden brown. Cheese filling should be compact, not liquid when is done.

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