Saturday, August 13, 2011

Farm Bulletin: Plums and Celebrating the Slump

It is truly the height of the summer season, and it only gets better from here on out. Plums for tarts and clafoutis, berries for pie, crisp, cobbler and slump…what's not to like? Contributor Anthony Boutard shares what you'll under the Ayers Creek Farm gaily colored banner this week.

Imperial Epineuse Plums

This is a superb free stone dessert prune from the Clairac region of France. It is the first of the top quality plums to ripen with us. In The Plums of New York, U.P. Hedrick notes that the original seedling was found in an old monastery around 1870. It was brought to California by Felix Gillett around 1883, and few years later trials were planted in Oregon. Gillet touted the virtues of the prune, which he called the 'Clairac Mammoth', in the Eighth Biennial Report of Oregon Board of Agriculture (1905).

Nonetheless, it never gained a commercial foothold here, which is a pity. It has proved a reliable plum for us. The texture is very fine, and some pomologists have suggested that it may have a bit of damson in its background. The skin provides a pleasing and contrasting acidic note. Most of our plums have have had another very bad set because of the cool spring. The gages and Fellenberg (Italian) prune trees are almost bare again.

Chester Blackberries

Our good friend, Martie Sucec, gave us this old Gourmet Magazine recipe for Blackberry Slump when we started at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market. Martie was our first customer on that Bastille Day, 2002, and the first entry on this email list. That first week, we had some boysenberries, and lots of summer squash and red currants. Our daughter Caroline, who now runs Italy Hill Produce in Branchport, New York, helped us out that summer

We returned home with some summer squash and lots of red currants. After expressing her approval of our boysenberries, Martie returned the following week with a still warm-from-the-oven slump and a stack of recipes on sturdy oatmeal paper. This is our 171st newsletter and market, and while the market and our farm have both evolved, the very qualities of the market that we loved from that first day remain, exemplified by Martie's return each week. And we still have lots of currants on Bastille Day, but they sell now, part of the evolution.

The slump is simple to make. It has become a favorite among our Hillsdale customers. Last week, several people mentioned how much they enjoy the slump, so it worth reprising again this year.

Blackberry Slump
Courtesy of Martie Sucec and Gourmet Magazine

4 c. fresh blackberries (2-3 pints)
2 tsp. lemon juice (add some zest, if you like more lemony flavor)
3/4 c. sugar; depending on the sweetness of berries, or to taste
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. milk (whole,  2%, hemp or soy) room temperature
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375°.

Put berries in an ungreased 5 to 6-cup casserole, gratin dish, deep dish or ceramic pie plate and sprinkle evenly with about 1/2 cup of the sugar. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and remaining sugar into a medium bowl. Add milk and melted butter and whisk until smooth, then pour over berries (don’t worry if berries are not completely covered). Bake slump in middle of oven until top is golden, 35-45 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool 20 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Plum photo from Territorial Seed Company.

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