Saturday, November 7, 2009

Autumn: Thank you for the plums

Fall: A Crow
So it's old news autumn is here, but I never said I was going to be keeping the calendar for you so this post is not meant to announce that. No, this post is about how the colors are beautiful now and how I have a deep and abiding love for plums.

The autumn colors, of course you have all your myriad shades of yellow, orange, red, brown: siennas, ochres, ambers, umbers, shades you forget exist until you see them again the next fall. You know they're coming, but you can't quite remember the richness or the depth possible; they surprise all over again. In some places it seems like the foliage was set on fire. I looked for those colors that astound you with their translucence, but I didn't find them this time. What we did stumble upon were nooks and corners that looked like they'd been painted by some whimsical forest-dweller.
Crazy fall colors
Before you get to this, to all these shades each trying to best the next one, there is a perfect period where summer and fall kiss each other briefly and make friends. The days are still warm but with a faint breeze in the air,  a slight chill across your back. The sun grows less cheerful, less overbearing in its embrace. It's the time of the plums.

Plums. All sorts of plums. I like them purple the way they are most often thought of, the Damson plums(les Quetsches), but my favorite ones are the perfect little golden ones, the Mirabelles and their regal bigger sisters the Greengages (la Reine-Claude). When I was little, there was a fruit orchard behind the house in the country. Come the end of August, we'd go on the weekends and, with the caretaker, lay large sheets under the trees and shake the fruit out of them. I still remember watching him catch the large branches with a hook on a long pole. Sometimes he'd let me hold on to the pole as he shook, my four year-old body bouncing up and down, the plums pitter-pattering on the sheet as they fell. It was a reward, a prize, being able to eat the mirabelles just off the tree.
Mirabelle-Lemon Myrtle Leaf Clafoutis
It was a challenge, making something with them. Usually they don't make it any farther than the colander; I eat them out of there, just washed, not even bothering to put them in a bowl. But such is the power of Michel Roux and his clafoutis recipe*, which I had tried with cherries during the summer, that I couldn't resist and wanted to try it with the mirabelles, knowing full well that as they cooked, a wonderful scent would pervade the house and I would even be able to smell them as I went to bed. It's unusual, his clafoutis, in that most people don't make it with a crust anymore, but his pâte brisée (short dough) is so flaky and delicate that it's worth a try making clafoutis this way. My little twist on this was using lemon myrtle leaf that Y sent me from Australia, just a tiny bit infused into the milk before adding it to the batter, and there you have it, mirabelles and custard and just a hint of lemon. Heaven.

But what about the Greengages you ask?
Greengage Tart
Well, that's even more straightforward. For the greengages I simply followed Roux's greengage tart recipe*, no mysteries there, no additional ingredients. Greengages do not play well with others. As their name indicates, they are the queen of all plums. Mirabelles are the cheruby Spanish infantas to their stern Elizabethan monarchs. They retain a tart undertone about them even when fully ripe and cooked which is why Roux pairs them with pâte sucrée (sweet short dough) and pastry cream.

Plums. When I can revel in them, I know autumn is on its way.
Fall: Crow and Foliage
This is more of a mild set of fall colors, but I've no doubt that if we'd gone back a week later, the trees might have been about to combust from all that fire within. Sometimes it's hard to know when the foliage will give in to the relentless courtship of autumn; one year it might be a week early, the next it might be three weeks late. Early or late, soft or vibrant, understated or lively, I'll take them all, thank you.

And thank you for the plums too.
A few Fall colors
*If you must have them, I will give you the adapted recipes. If there is little demand, we'll leave this as is.
** For beautiful pictures of Mirabelles, go see Meeta's Mirabelle lemon poppyseed focaccia post.

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30 comments:

Erika from The Pastry Chef At Home said...

Lovely photos - especially the one of the bird in the tree. Like you, my plums rarely make it into any baked good. I always plan to use them (especially Italian plums) in a new recipe but always end up greedily eating them straight from the fruit bowl.

Deeba PAB said...

I love everything about fall, and love plums too. What a gorgeous clafoutis, and love the myrtle twist. Beautiful photographs as always. Love the way you captured Fall! Awesome...xoxo

Soma said...

Gorgeous!!

Kitchen Butterfly said...

I love plums. A few weeks ago I got a 'gift' of a whole box of red plums for 50 cents and I enjoyed discovering all sorts of new ways to cook them from drink to bake and jam. I'venever seen mirabelles not total of having them...but will ask my husband to bring some back when he's in Paris next week

MeetaK said...

plums are one of the many things i love about Fall. the only thing i do not like about it that winter is close at it's heels! lovely pictures and an awesome clafoutis. twin power indeed!

Jamie said...

Fall is my favorite season, the magic and romance of the colors and the cool, sunny days. I love everything about it (except the rain we've been having). Plums to me are end of summer when we'd go to my in-laws and pick dark, succulent cherries and the absolute best reine-claudes I've ever tasted. And I so indeed do want that clafoutis recipe, Hilda. Please :-) And yes Meeta has me wanting to make her sweet focaccia too.

Gorgeous photos and gorgeous words, Hilda.

Murasaki Shikibu said...

This is all very pretty. The scenery and the food shots all make me smile. :)

The Purple Foodie said...

Just when I was about to ask you about mirabelles, you gave a link to Meeta's post. thanks! Never seen them before. Your photos of autumn are stunning. Wish we could see such drastic changes in the seasons here in Bombay.

Eric Woods said...

I love autumn

Molly said...

Commenting for haiti. I love the shot of the tree walkway, with a gray sky. It seems very romantic. Reminiscent of where Mr. Darcy finally tracked down Lizzy Bennet!

Anonymous said...

This is great! Thanks for the opportunity to help out Haiti.

ejm said...

Mmmm, plums! I think my favourite kind of pie is plum.

-Elizabeth

(so glad I found you)

Stacy said...

Commenting for Haiti.

Heather said...

That made me hungry and I'm not even sure I like plums! (Haiti again)

Katie said...

That looks great!

Corey said...

I love plums! But it has never occurred to me to cook with them.. they are just so sweet and delicious right from the bowl..

Patricia said...

I adore plums. I bought some beautiful yellow plums at the market in October, ate several and used the rest to make jam. My thought was that the jam would be a stunningly lovely shade of yellow and SO much different than my usual red plum jam. Sadly, I forgot to pay attention to the stove and when I smelled burning sugar, I dashed to the kitchen too late to save my beautiful yellow plum jam.

Again for Haiti...

Leah W said...

yum!

Trisha said...

I really like the shot of the bird in the tree.

Wanna B Thin 2 said...

While your fall colors appear muted, now in mid-winter, they look very inviting.

Meg Kat said...

Oh, love that first birdie photo!

Dbe said...

I too like the bird sitting high up on the tree branch.

Hai said...

Looks great! and prayers for Haiti!

Kat said...

I might have to take a break from commenting and go bake something!

Jeanne @ Cooksister! said...

Mmmm, we have mirabelles dropping into our new garden in the late summer from the neighbours' HUGE tree & I also made a clafoutis. Bliss!

Sari said...

Beautiful autumn colours. I just love it.

Zara said...

The pies look delicious, YUM!I like the photo where "dishevelled" tussocks are all around the lake:)Though my favorite time of the year is summer and may be also late spring, but each season has its own beauty...lovely describing of Autumn!

Donnette Davis said...

#Haiti

While I love winter, particularly in Scotland *reminiscing here* fall is my absolutely favourite time of year... the most memorable having been spent in Boston, MA...

You paint such beautiful pictures in the mind's eye, using plums, which incidentally are available in South Africa year round, more particularly during the height of our summer :D)

Anonymous said...

comment comment. thanks for the good work.

Ted said...

Leaving a comment for Haiti.

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