I glanced down at the cutting board and it looked like a crime scene out of Dexter. My hands were covered with red, the knife was stained. It looked … incriminating.
But it was all very innocent — really! I was just doing what cooks everywhere do this time of year, sitting on a boatload of fast-ripening fruit and needing to do something with it now. In my case, it was a few pounds of very-ripe plums destined to become this Plum Compote with Cardomom.
And that’s the thing with summer fruit. Once you’ve gobbled the bounty out out of hand, chopped it up over yogurt, and topped it with whipped cream for quick dessert, you’ll still. have. more. That “what now?” challenge can become a bit of an obsession for some. Inspired by a bushel of u-pick farm cherries last summer, food blogger Erika Kerekes launched her line of Not Ketchup savory fruit sauces this year, and it’s steadily going national.
The rest of us will settle for these tried-and-true solutions on a smaller scale:
Throw it in a pie. Or its more rustic cousin, the free-form crostata (known as a galette to the French). I know — duh! It’s a classic, and for good reason. Few things are more delectable than warm fruit encased in pastry.
Spin it into a sauce. Personally, I prefer summer fruit in savory dishes, where the sweetness and acidity of the fruit add a bright note to richer fare. This Salmon with Agrodolce Blueberries has become one of my all-time summer faves. And I love turning stone fruit in to spicy-sweet salsa.
Make jam. This is a classic way to preserve that summer flavor. If you’re not making a lot, you can go the refrigerator route, as I do with this recipe. But if you want to enjoy the flavor all year long, you’ll need to make it a full-blown canning project. New to canning? Check out Living Homegrown’s Canning 101 resources with tips from Master Food Preserver (and co-exec producer of the PBS series Growing a Greener World) Theresa Loe.
This not-to-sweet compote uses just a touch of brown sugar, but gets most of its sweetness from the fruit. I love it stirred into Greek yogurt for breakfast or dolloped on cheesecake. But it also plays well in savory dishes. Try it with pork or chicken.
Don’t worry about peeling the fruit — the skin adds lovely deep-purple color and it will soften as the compote cooks. And you can use any stone fruit in place of the plums, or use a combo of whatever you have on hand.
Plum Compote with Cardamom
2 pounds very ripe plums, pitted and coarsely chopped
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon freshly ground green cardamom
1/8 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook at a lively simmer for 30 minutes or until thickened and reduced to about 2 cups. Stir it occasionally so the compote doesn’t scorch.
Transfer to a clean, 1-pint jar and cool to room temperature (the compote will thicken more as it cools). Store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator.
Makes about 2 cups.