Monday, October 3, 2011
Mrs. Emerson’s Pickled Plums
When Bob and I first moved to Seattle, we rented a cute little house in the Queen Anne neighborhood. It was our first home together, where we were living when we got married and had our first baby, Sam. We loved this house! It had a huge front deck, a dog door for our two border collies, flowering bushes, and a garden area in back with a pear tree and an Italian plum tree. The pear tree did not produce many pears (I think I was able to make only one pear pie in the three years we lived there) but the plum tree bore copious amounts of fruit.
The owner of the house was a sweet, elderly English woman named Mrs. Emerson. Every month, Bob and I walked the short way to her house to pay our rent and have a little visit. Part of our lease agreement included us picking two grocery bags of the plums each season and delivering them to her. Mrs. Emerson liked to pickle the plums, and she always shared a few jars with us. I was not familiar with pickled plums at the time ... I tried to imagine a plum being pickled like a dill pickle and that just sounded odd to me.
The first time Mrs. Emerson brought us a jar of plums, I admit I was a little skeptical. I took a bite, though, and it was unlike anything I’d tasted before. Cloves, cinnamon and ginger burst forth. (No sign of the dill and garlic that had been on my mind.) They were delicious!
When we eventually bought our current house and moved, it was sad to say good-bye to the adorable house and Mrs. Emerson (after all, how many landladies do you meet who are excited when their tenants have border collies?). Over the years, I’ve thought about Mrs. Emerson and her pickled plums, especially during this time of year when plums are in season. Spying Italian plums at the market recently, I decided to try to recreate hers.
Cloves were a dominant flavor, along with cinnamon and ginger. After adding and tasting, tasting and adding, I arrived at a close approximation of Mrs. Emerson’s.
These plums evoke thoughts of holidays for me. They can be served with thick yogurt and granola to house guests, or simply placed on the Thanksgiving table.
Inspired by Mrs. Emerson
Makes 2 quarts
2 pounds Italian plums, halved and pitted
1 cup white vinegar
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 inch piece of fresh ginger, cut into 1/2 inch slices
Zest of 1 lemon
Divide the plums evenly between two 1-quart jars.
Combine the vinegar, sugar, water, cloves, cinnamon, ginger and lemon zest in a large sauce pan. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Pour the pickling liquid over the plums and leave to cool uncovered. When cool, cover and chill for at least 24 hours before beginning to eat. The plums will keep in the fridge for up to one month.