Isn’t that plum gorgeous?!!! My boss has a plum tree right next to her house. The property the tree is on actually belongs to a little old lady in her eighties. Last summer, I’d often see her on her knees, gathering up fallen plums to try and prevent future trees from sprouting (which I saw springing up all over the place!). Each time I saw her, she begged me to take as many plums as I wanted whenever I wanted. Well, pretty much the only fruit I’d refuse would be cantaloupe, so I always assured I’d take as much as I possibly could. Italian prune plums are pretty heavily producing trees, and I pick a good 10-15 pounds a week!
The first week, we just ate them as is, and I used them for palate cleansers at our artisan steak tasting. This week, I’m squeezing in time to cook with them, and plum sauce was first on my list. In Hawaii, we didn’t have a potluck without some sort of Chinese plum sauce, whether it was a dip for egg rolls or fried mandu, or a mixed into a cabbage salad. Everyone had a different way to make it, but the basic flavors were usually the same.
You’d have the tart from your fresh plums, sweet from a little brown sugar or honey, salty from some soy sauce, ginger and garlic (and sometimes onion) for some savory goodness, and chili sauce or red pepper flakes for spiciness. Sometimes they include a little vinegar (rice vinegar, chinese black vinegar, or red wine vinegar) if the plums aren’t tart enough. I decided that I wanted to create my own plum sauce, playing around with the ingredient ratios. I figured it couldn’t be too hard, I mean, these plums are so delicious they’d be tough to mess up! Fortunately, I was right
Feel free to play around with this recipe. Some people like their plum sauce smooth, in which case a blender or food processor is perfect. Other people prefer a chunkier consistency, so you’d want to simply mash it with a wooden spoon while it simmers on the stove, or give it a couple whirls with an immersion blender. Another option is to add more water if you want to stretch your sauce or make it thinner.
You also have some leeway with the ingredients for plum sauce. Try and keep a good balance of flavors so the sauce impacts every part of your tongue, but don’t let not having something keep you from making it. If you don’t have fresh onion, garlic, or ginger, you can use powdered. It will have a different taste and consistency, but can still be quite yummy. You can also add chopped prunes, apricots or other dried stone fruit. My recipe is based on the traditional Chinese plum sauce my aunties in Hawaii made, but don’t feel limited by it.
If you’d like to make some, but aren’t sure how to use plum sauce, there are a ton of different things to eat with plum sauce. Last night we ate it with potstickers. Here are some of my other favorites, what’s your favorite plum sauce dish?
-Fried tofu cubes
Chinese Plum Sauce from Scratchmakes 1 cup
10-12 small plums
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 TBS grated fresh ginger
2 TBS shoyu (soy sauce)
1/2 tsp red chili sauce
Slice plums in half and discard pits. Cut each half into about 6 chunks. Mix with remaining ingredients in a saucepan. Heat on medium low for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Whirl sauce in a blender and add water to thin if desired (I usually around 1/2 cup), chill to serve. Store in a jar in the fridge for up to 6 weeks.
Approximate cost/serving: My plums were free, so this cost me almost nothing. If you buy plums it will be $2.50-$3 to make, but the sauce is enough dip for 6-8 people, so we’ll call it 40 cents a serving.
Vegetarian/Gluten Free: The sauce is vegetarian and vegan, my shoyu has wheat gluten. Use a gluten free soy sauce, or just skip the soy sauce and use salt to taste.
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