Sunday, September 23, 2007
Pie #3: Tom Thumb's Plum
The fact that Adam asked me if I had ever made plum pie on the exact same day that Frank dropped by to give me 20# of Italian plums from his tree is one of those serendipitous coincidences that one is rarely blessed with. Adam didn't know that Frank was coming, and Frank wasn't sure if I could use the plums. It was luck and good timing that led me to coming up with this pie, which knocked my socks off the second I tasted it.
Adam, the sous chef at the restaurant is one of my favorite guys to bounce ideas off of. He's a great chef who grew up on a farm in Michigan. His knowledge of produce is extensive, and being that he's not a northwest native, things like wild mushrooms, seafood, and huckleberries get him all giddy. It's a joy to work around. We were discussing the Italian plum, which at the moment, are hanging impatiently from neighborhood trees all over Seattle, when he brought up that nursery rhyme....the one with Tom Thumb. Neither of us could really remember much about the story. Only that it involved a plum pie, and something to do perhaps with Tom sticking his thumb in it? Anyway, I had never made a plum pie, nor even seen a recipe for one. About an hour later, Frank, our resident green thumb showed up at the back door in his overalls...always a good sign. That means he's been picking and I get to reap the benefits of his labor!! Frank made my day with six baskets of beautiful Italian plums. Right away, I got crackin' on that pie.
I wanted to really focus on the flavor of the fruit...as I always do with pie. I'm not big on blended fruit pies, or pies with busy fillings. For me, pie is a way to showcase a particular fruit in the height of it's season. I try not to go overboard with spices or sugar either. Perfectly ripe fruit needs very little embellishment. When one takes a bite, the first thought in their head should be "Peaches!" or "Cherries!", not "Sweet! and nutmeg...and I think I taste blackberries too". That being said, most fruit pies need just a little something to pump up the flavor. My blueberry pie has a little ground ginger in it. Not so much that it's over powering, but just enough to enhance the berries and bring them alive on your palate. In the case of Italian plums, I turned to two flavors that attach beautifully to them; a splash of Armagnac and just a pinch of cinnamon.
The Italian plum's soul mate....
1 recipe of your favorite pie dough (or see the cherry pie post below), must be enough dough for a double crust pie
3# Italian plums
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 oz. Armagnac or brandy (optional, but recommended!)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch sea salt
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 T cold unsalted butter
Wash the plums well, then pit and slice into quarters. Toss with the lemon juice and Armagnac. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients and stir into the plums. Let the fruit sit while you roll out the bottom crust. Fill the crust with the fruit, then cut the butter into small cubes and scatter them across the fruit. Roll out the top crust, place it over the fruit, and adhere it to the bottom crust. Trim the edges, tuck them under, then form into a crimped patters. Slice a few steam vents on top of the pie, then sprinkle with more granulated sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Turn heat down to 325 and bake for 1 hour.
I think this has inched it's way to the top of my list of favorite pies. The cinnamon is just right...barely there, but still doing it's job. I doubt many tasters could detect the Armagnac, but they wonder what it is that gives the pie that delightful warmth. I have now found a new way to celebrate fall's arrival, thanks to a man dedicated to harvesting his fruit trees before the birds do it first, and a nursery rhyme.