Lightning struck my plum tree. At least that’s what I thought when I arrived in Burgundy last Friday and saw my proud, 100-year-old, fruit-laden tree split in two. Then my gardener friend Mathias arrived and said, no, it was the weight of the fruit plus the weight of the recent torrential rain that that had caused the tree to break. But there were the boughs, brought to the ground and crushing a lavender patch. What was to be done?
Confiture de prunes / Plum jam
I’ve been making jam for decades and, of all the varieties, plum is perhaps my favorite. Plums are versatile fruit — you can used them in jam, in tarts, in crumbles, and in fabulous sauces like the Georgian tkemali, which combines slightly unripe plums with cilantro, garlic, coriander seeds, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and olive oil to produce an exotic relish to serve with roast game or duck. I use Anya von Bremzen’s recipe from Please to the Table, her amazing book of recipes from the republics of the former Soviet Union. Plums come in blue, red, green and yellow and range in size from tiny to huge. I am lucky enough to have several varieties in my garden in Burgundy. All make wonderful jam.
Now for the good news: 1) It has finally stopped raining. 2) Mathias has figured out a way to save half of the tree. I am heart-broken about losing even part of my plum tree, which presided grandly over my cottage. But one of the miracle qualities of jam is to preserve not just the fruit but the memories — of the long days of summer and that sultry feeling that comes over you when a warm breeze wafts past. Just a spoonful of jam is enough, in the depths of winter, to bring on a Proustian moment. I will put aside my four jars of plum jam, with their July 2014 labels, and open them months from now to think back on the wonder of nature that created a tree so heavy with fruit in its glory days.
As plums come into season wherever you are in the world, I hope you will try this recipe. Happy cooking!