Tag Archives | Italian plums

Slow Cooker Brown Sugar Plum Butter

plums for butter

For most of the last three weeks, my left crisper drawer has been almost entirely occupied by plums. I’ve slowly working my way through this bounty, cooking them into jam, using them in my various demonstrations, and relying on my slow cooker to turn them into butter (two batches, thus far). The bottom of the drawer is finally in sight and I think the remaining plums will become a batch of cardamom-spiked jam.

raw plums in slow cooker

I’ve written a great deal over the years about using a slow cooker to make fruit butters, so if you’re a long-time reader, this post might feel oddly familiar. However, I’m of the belief that anything useful and good can always bear repeating, and so, I push on and offer you another slow cooker.

cooked plum halves

The plums I most like to use for butter are late season Italian plums. Bred for cooking and drying (they are also known as Italian prunes), they are typically the last variety of stonefruit available before the weather slips into fall. They can be slightly bitter or tannic when eaten raw, but once heated or dried, trade those unpleasant elements for a lush texture and natural sweetness.

pureed plums

To make plum butter, I fill my biggest colander, give the plums a good rinse, and then stand at the sink for a time to cut the fruit into halves and remove the pits. I find that for my 6 quart slow cooker, my starting weight is typically between 7 and 8 pounds.

Then I heap those plum halves in the cooker, add a few tablespoons of water to prevent scorching in the early stages of cooking, set the lid in place, and cook on high for somewhere between 2 and 4 hours. This first stage of cooking is designed to soften the plums enough so that they can easily be pureed with an immersion blender.

finished plum butter

Once they’re soft, I apply my immersion blender until the plums have been transformed into a puree. Then I balance a wooden chopstick across the lip of the slow cooker crock, and rest the lid on top of it, so that the steam can easily vent. Finally, I turn the cooker on low and proceed to cook the plum puree down over the course of the next 6 to 10 hours (your mileage will always vary here).

I try to give the cooking butter a good stir every couple of hours, to ensure that the top doesn’t dry out while the underside burns.

jars of plum butter

Once the plum puree has reduced down to a dense, thick, spreadable butter, it is done. I like to scrape it out into a medium saucepan for the final pureeing, because if you’ve done your work well, there won’t be enough depth in the slow cooker for an immersion blender to work well.

When the butter is smooth from the second application of the immersion blender, I add the sweetener and spices. In the case of this batch, I sweetened with brown sugar, thinking that it’s molasses-y flavor would go well with the plums. I also added 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, and a splash of lemon juice for balance.

small jar plum butter

As with all fruit butters, you can sweeten this one to your taste. You could reduce the amount of sugar, use regular granulated sugar, add a bit of honey instead, or even leave it entirely unsweetened (though I find that even a small amount of sugar helps balance the fruit and also improves shelf life).

To preserve, funnel the finished butter into jars (I like half pints for this one, as a little goes a long way), leaving a generous 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in boiling water bath canner for 20 minutes. I always process fruit butters for longer than jam, because their increased density makes it harder for the heat of the canner to penetrate to the center of the jar. A longer processing time helps combat that.

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Pickled Italian Plums

vertical pickled plums

These pickled plums may be my favorite new preserve of this summer. They are a bit sweet, slightly spiced, and super tangy. Much like other pickled fruit, they are something of a two for one product, because once the fruit is gone, you can pour the flavorful syrup into sparkling water or use it to flavor batches of homemade vinaigrette.

italian plums

Like all pickled fruit, this recipe works best if you start with fruit that is just slightly underripe. You want to choose fruit that has plenty of flavor and a bit of give, but still has enough robustness to retain the integrity of the slices once they’ve simmered for a bit.

slivered plums

I kept the spices relatively restrained in this pickle, bundling up just star anise, whole cloves, black peppercorns, and a little crushed red chili flake for heat. Because spices are always the place where can personalize a preserve, if you make this one on your own, feel free to take that cheese cloth packet in any direction you’d like.

A short length of cinnamon stick would have fit in nicely and a few gently crushed cardamom pods would also play nicely.

plum spices

If the plums are already gone in your area, don’t think that your opportunities for pickled fruit are over. You could try this with tender slices of pears or hunks of soft fleshed apple (a golden delicious would be a nice choice).

finished jars of pickled plums

Looking for more pickled fruit? I’ve got so many other seasonal options for you! Naturally sweetened apple date chutney. Honey sweetened peach chutney (make it while the peaches last!). Pickled asian pears (this recipe is from Karen Solomon’s gorgeous book Asian Pickles). Persimmon and pear chutney (persimmons will be here soon). Pear chutney with dried cherries and ginger. Pickled cranberries (the. best.).

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