My favorite fruits are plums, which, confusingly for anglophones, are called prunes, in French, or pruneaux, when they are dried.They show up late at the markets in Paris, but stick around longer, overlapping with apples and pears, which arrive in early fall.Most of the plums that you see in Paris markets aren’t the tart varieties that are eaten out of hand, but are more suitable for baking.Come late summer, early fall, quetsches (prune plums) and Reine Claudes hit the stands, as well as mirabelle, tiny cherry-tomato-sized fruits that are sweet, with a rich plum flavor and little acidity.But then I realized I shouldn’t compare them to other plums, and I should enjoy them for their deep, syrupy, jammy flavor, which intensifies when cooked or baked.Speaking of shopping at the market, I’d mentioned on social media that I like to taste some fruits before I buy them, like plums, because the quality can vary and I want to make sure I am getting good ones.(The handsome sausage guy from the Auvergne at my market, for example, presides over a stand that I particularly spend a lot of time at – for some reason…one being is that he always offers me samples.).I think the vendors just don’t want to put plates out food out for people to sample, partially because Paris ain’t Costco.(On a related note, I was setting up for a booksigning once in Paris and brought brownies, and I had arrived a little early to cut them up.A woman walking by asked if she could have one and I replied that if she could wait a moment until I was done, that would be great.Well, she didn’t feel like it and stuck her hand under the long serrated knife I was cutting brownies with, to snatch a bite.And if you ever see me slicing brownies, I recommend that you exercise a bit of patience, and wait a moment before grabbing a sample.If you do the “wrinkle test,” put the plate in the freezer when you start making the jam.Add the sugar and lemon juice and continue to cook the mirabelles over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the liquid looks syrupy and thick.Remove from heat, add the kirsch or eau-de-vie, if using, and balance the flavor with a little bit more lemon juice, if desired.
Edward R. Forte