August 2014

French Plum Jam

French Plums  AKA Sugar Plums, French Prunes.  (Prunus domestica)

French Plums


It’s hard to know what to call these delicious plums since they are an American cultivar of the Prune D’Agen, which gets kinda complicated because the French word for “plum” is “prune” and even more complicated because traditionally these plums were always dried and thus with French perversity no longer called “prunes” but rather “pruneaux”. Worse yet, their primary use in this country was for drying so that they’d then be called “prunes” in English.

The bottom line, though, is that they are a superb plum for eating fresh. They are deliciously sweet and have a mouth feel that most people find “chewy”, in the best sense.

They have a short season, so get them while you can. I got these from Marie at Rodin Farms, but quite a few other vendors have them, including Glenn Tanimoto and Arata Farms.

And get some extra to make a superb jam, and perhaps for the second batch you can brighten it up even more by the addition at the beginning of some seeded, deveined, and chopped chiles.

So that’s what i did.


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Confiture de Reines Claudes

Chaucer wrote that we should eat everything in its season, or as he put it in “The Franklin’s Tale”, “after the sondry seasons of the yeer”.

Well, it’s greengage season, at least at Rodin Farms, and Marie brought to market last Wednesday the first of this year’s crop.

Greengage Plums (Prunus domestica ssp. italica var. claudiana) originated in France as a cultivar of a wild green Asian plum and were named Reine Claude Vert in honor of Claude, the Duchess of Brittany. They were taken to England in 1724 by Sir William Gage and thus became known as Greengages.

In this country, both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew them, and they have long been known as the queen of the plums for their rich, sweet flavor.

Alas, they have two strikes against them. First, the trees are notoriously capricious producers, which does not endear them to farmers, who want trees that can be depended on to produce large yields regularly.  Second, they’re small and green, and modern Americans have been trained to like large, brightly colored things, even if they don’t taste as good.

So the farmers who bring these delicacies to market are those dedicated to the preservation of an extra fine heirloom plum that will stand up proudly against any modern plum on any criteria other than size and color.

Oh, and there’s a third problem. They have a very short season.

On the other hand, they can be made into an excellent jam.

So that’s what i did.  Went online to check for an heirloom recipe and found pages of them.  I followed this one.  And yes, i consider it downright miraculous that while i can no longer speak French, i can still read it.

Here’s a shot at the beginning of the maceration process.


Reines Claudes in marination for a confiture


And the finished product.  Yep, once you’ve cooked them down for an hour, they’re no longer green.


Confiture de Reines Claudes  AKA Greengage Jam


And on this coming Wednesday i’ll take a couple of jars to the Castro Farmers’ Market for Marie to put out for folks to taste.  Not-so-hidden agenda?  Well yes, not only will this make sure i remain endeared to Marie, but also it’ll serve as a marketing device.  And oh, i printed up a couple of signs for her to display above the bin….just to make sure the customers know these things are a treasure.

Finally, i’ll mention that one of the reasons i like Marie is that she pays her farm workers infinitely more than Washington and Jefferson did.





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