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December 5th, 2008

Friday of the First Week of Advent

"Visions of Sugar-Plums?"

 
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Advent Eating…


"…While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads" — from "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (better known as ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas)

What the heck are “sugar-plums” anyway?

Sugarplums are simply dried, sugared plums. In the Victorian era, they were most popular as a Christmas treat, but were also served year-round. The technique of creating sugarplums is very time-consuming, but not too hard.

Summer, when plums are ripe but firm, is the best time to make your own. Many gourmet stores carry sugarplums—but, according to food expert Arthur Schwartz, it is better to buy them from Europe. "Everyone in the United States always says that they hate fruitcake here and that’s simply because European countries simply have better glazed fruit than we do."

But if you are insisting on making your own…

Ingredients

1 pound of plums
2 ½ pounds of white granulated sugar
1 pint of water plus 2 Tablespoons of water

Directions

Make a thin sugar syrup by mixing ½ pound of sugar and a pint of water in a large pot.

Slit the plums down the seam and place them into the syrup so they are fully covered.

Poach gently until just tender. Cool, cover and refrigerate overnight to allow the plums to absorb the sweetness. Make a heavy sugar syrup by mixing 2 pounds of sugar and 2 tablespoons of water in a large pot. Slowly boil until a drop of syrup in cold water makes a thick but soft ball. Transfer plums from the thin syrup to the heavy syrup and remove from heat; again make certain plums are covered by the heavy syrup. Allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer to a glass or ceramic bowl, cover tightly and allow flavor to develop for about a week. Once flavor has developed, separate plums onto parchment paper and place them in a warm (170 degree) oven, turning them every half hour until dry—or use a home dehydrator.

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