Category Archives: Fruit

Austrian Fruit Cake – Obstkuchen

An Austrian fruit cake made with plums (Zwetschgenkuchen)

Kuchen (“cake”) and Obstkuchen (“fruit cake”) can refer to many different desserts and pastries in Austria and Germany.  By Austrian fruit cake I am referring to a very simple, very common preparation of a dense but tender cake that is topped with seasonal fruit before going in the oven.  It’s made throughout the year with whatever fruit happens to be best that day.  I was in Austria in May, June, and July, and saw it made first with rhubarb, then cherries, then apricots.  The fruit settles into the cake nicely during the bake, but is still visible from the top.  I think soft fruits that get a touch jammy when cooked work best for this (as opposed to, say, apples … Continue reading.

Green Plums Cured like Olives

Green plums cured like olives

Right off the hop: I stole this idea from Ben Staley. He made “Green Plum Cured like an Olive” at Alta (RIP) and it really blew my mind. Not sure if he is serving these at Yarrow or not. After my meal at Alta I talked to Ben briefly and asked how he made the plum olives. If I remember right he said they were fermented in brine, then pressure-cooked with a bit of vinegar. I’ve since done some research and it tuns out that pickled green plums are actually quite common across North Africa and the Middle East. Still, I owe Ben for introducing me to the concept.

To be clear we are talking about plums that are … Continue reading.

Plum Jam with Japanese Plums Prunus salicina

Three types of plum jam made with Japanese plums (Prunus salicina).

Can you make plum jam with Japanese plums? Of course! However as we’ve discussed several times this season, when you cook the flesh of Prunus salicina some powerful sour flavours develop.

Out of hand the flesh of a Japanese plum is so mild you might consider dialling back the sugar for a jam recipe. You definitely should not! First, the sugar is essential for the mixture to actually “jam” or set, but also that generous dose of sweetness balances the acidity that is unleashed during cooking. I ended up using the same ratio I use for raspberry jam: 2:1 fruit to sugar. Even with this high sugar content, the jam is quite tart. We noticed that of our two … Continue reading.

Drying Japanese Plums Prunus salicina

A bowl of dried Japanese plums (Prunus salicina)
A bowl of dried Japanese plums (Prunus salicina) var. Ptitsin.

No process better demonstrates the difference in “behaviour” between European plums (Prunus domestica) and Japanese plums (Prunus salicina) than drying. Whereas typical grocery store prunes made from domestica are soft, chewy, and super sweet with dark flavours of caramel, dried Prunus salicina are much more like dried sour cherries.

These plums at left were halved, pitted, and kept in our dehydrator overnight around 40°C.

Even though the flesh of fresh Japanese plums has very little acidity, as I wrote about in this post most processing methods cause a dramatic change in flavour and the fruit becomes sour. Dehydrating of course concentrates this acidity. I like sour … Continue reading.

The Surprising Flavours and Behaviour of Japanese Plums – Prunus salicina

A bowl of nearly-ripe Ptitsin plums.

Last summer I posted about our Japanese plum trees, and how we had harvested a few plums from each tree the last two summers.

This year we got our first appreciable harvest, so I have finally been able to play around with how best to store, cook, and preserve the fruit. There is almost no useful English-language information online regarding Japanese plums in the kitchen, and we’ve had some pretty surprising results, so I thought I would share!

The following information is all about our Ptitsin #3 cultivar. We are still waiting for the Ivanovka to ripen, but expect similar results.

Harvesting. Plums are able to ripen off the tree. When the Ptitsin plums are almost fully ripe, … Continue reading.

Apple Johnny

Apple johnny: cake baked in apple sauce.

Apple Johnny is a cake from eastern Canada that is baked in apple sauce. This is the third traditional cake from that region I’ve come across that is baked in a sauce or syrup.  I think that’s enough to classify this as a family of cakes.  I am going to call them drop cakes, because you make a batter and drop it into some manner of delicious sauce or liquid.  Not a traditional term by any means but there it is.

Anyways, the most famous drop cake is pouding chômeur, which is a traditional Quebecois cake baked in maple syrup.  When I mentioned this to a friend who grew up in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, she said that they … Continue reading.

Sour Cherry Barbecue Sauce

Pork ribs glazed with sour cherry barbecue sauce.

Sour cherries, being sour, are best cooked with sugar, so their most obvious applications are pies, pastries, compotes, and the like.  This is a problem because sour cherry trees are prolific, and a man can only eat so much pie.  Over the years we have struck upon other winning preparations for the efficient preservation and consumption of sour cherries, notably drinks like rum pot and cherry liqueur.  But to really showcase the fruit’s versatility we’ve been eager for ways to use them in savoury meat dishes.  Enter sour cherry barbecue sauce.

For most of my grown-up life my house barbecue sauce has been the Carolina-style recipe in Ruhlman and Polcyn’s Charcuterie.  It is what I call a “pantry … Continue reading.

Japanese Plums – Prunus salicina – in Edmonton

The best time to plant a plum tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.

-“Chinese proverb” (probably not though…)

A ripe Japanese plum variety called Ivanovka, growing in Edmonton.
Photo by Lisa Zieminek

We have two Japanese plum trees in our yard. The cultivar names are confusingly but unmistakably Slavic: Ivanovka and Ptitsin #3.[1] The trees were purchased as cuttings from the University of Saskatchewan, but the varieties were first developed at the Morden Research Station in Manitoba and first released in 1939.[2] We chose these specific varieties for their cold-heartiness, fruit quality, and pollination requirements.

For most of our other fruit trees we didn’t have to give much thought to pollination. Our sour cherries, for instance, are all self-pollinating. And while apples must … Continue reading.

Candy Apples

Candy apples, rank and fileI really want to like candy apples.  They are so closely associated with fall and carnivals and country fairs, they seem like a fantastic way to celebrate our local apples.

In practice they are usually disappointing.  They are often died a garish red.  The candy coating is either adamantine, or it sticks to your teeth and threatens to pull out your molars.  And usually the fruit is so large that it cannot be eaten comfortably from the end of a stick.  You have to unhinge your jaw, which compromises your ability to break the adamantine candy coating.

In theory all these problems can be solved.

Let’s talk apples.  Any good eating-apple is a good candy-apple.  Firm, crisp, juicy.  Apples … Continue reading.

Apple Must

Apple must reductionWhen you have hundreds of pounds of something you start thinking deeply on how you can preserve and consume the bounty.  This time of year apples are the subject of those deep thoughts.  Of course cider is the supreme way to preserve and consume apples, but I’ve been experimenting with some other techniques that involve cooking and reducing the fresh apple juice.

I got the idea from the cuisine of Modena.  Obviously they have an abundance of grapes, and obviously the majority of those grapes end up as wine or liquor, but they also have a few preparations made by cooking and reducing fresh grape juice.  The most famous is traditional balsamic vinegar, but there is also a … Continue reading.