Plums: Variety and Imagination

Posted by Jeff Pauls on 23rd Jul 2018

Plums: Variety and Imagination

In this post, you’ll learn some word history, some deliciously creative recipes, and the benefits of thinking about things in whole new ways. The theme here is creativity.

Do you ever see connections between things that don’t seem to connect at all? Sometimes the connection between seemingly unrelated things becomes even stronger the more you look at the relationship. Sometimes things start one place and end up in a completely different place--one you never imagined, but ultimately so much better than your original plan. Let’s start with some word association and see where it takes us. Thinking about our plums, I remembered a phrase I haven’t heard for a long time…

Let’s Play Dictionary

Have you ever heard the phrase “plumb loco?” The literal definition would be ‘absolutely crazy.’ He or she might do things completely out of the ordinary, or even dangerous. It’s hard for you to imagine yourself, or anyone, doing such things. Plumb loco! What better idiom to describe your friend! Where does this phrase come from? As with many local sayings, or sayings from another era, a phrase like ‘plumb loco’ is ripe for discussion, evidenced here and here.

At one point in time, the word plumb was more closely associated with “the lead plumb bob that’s hung from a line to determine water depth or verticality.” Permit me a brief story to demonstrate the second application, verticality.

We often used a plumb bob back when I installed dairy equipment here in Lancaster County. We would often run vacuum and milk lines (aka pipes) right up through the ceiling. They had to be straight. When drilling a hole in a ceiling for a pipe, we would hold the string against the ceiling while bringing the weight’s (plumb bob) center, to the center of the fitting below, which the pipe would be fitted to. Marking the spot on the ceiling directly above the fitting, the mark indicated where to drill the hole. With this method, our risers were quite perpendicular or ‘plumb.’ It made the installation neat, tidy, and easy to clean. Get all that?

But if ‘plumb’ can mean something is vertical, how can the same word be used to describe behavior? If you venture over to the sites I linked to earlier, you’ll see how this word describing a measurement of physical objects came to include a measurement of human behavior. Apparently, the morphing of the word plumb to an adverb that denotes intensity or the extreme of something seems to have come about as early as 1588.

And yet, the English language can have two words sounding exactly the same, with different spellings. And meaning things that are completely unrelated! The words plumb and plum are perfect examples of this confusing reality. Confused? Well, let’s take a break and talk about plums...

Plum Recipes That Are Plumb Delicious

You knew a pun was just waiting around the corner, right? Not only are vertical lines a thing of beauty, the plum, with its signature plum color, is beautiful to behold and delicious to eat. Take a look at these recipes Rose Marie shared on The Gardener’s Pantry blog. They are so creative, I had to pass them along:

Fresh Plum Salsa

Chopped up plums, jalapenos, cilantro, a colorful bell pepper, onion, a little garlic, lime juice and salt. If you want to use a food processor, be sure to do it with a light touch. I prefer the chopped texture.

Chipotle Plum Barbecue Sauce

  • 6 cups of pitted plums
  • 3 medium onions
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika or 2-3 chipotles in adobo sauce
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • (sugar and salt to taste after cooking)

Run these ingredients in a food processor or finely chop. Put in a heavy non-reactive pan and simmer until thickened. Give these an occasional stir (it’s good to be doing another kitchen task so you can make sure there is no scorching). Remove from heat, season with sugar and salt. When cool, package some up in small containers and share.

Plum Purple Basil Pie

Use any good pie recipe--I prefer those heavy on the fruit. Check out a peach pie recipe and simply substitute plums. The purple basil brings in a nice spicy flavor without the little green specks, but any basil can be used. A touch of cinnamon can be added.

Plum Dessert Sauce

  • 3 cups of halved or quartered plums
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons lavender flavored honey (a gift that is too strong for toast but good in sauces and lemonade)…add more if you think best
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 crushed or freshly ground cardamom seeds
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • A little cinnamon, a bay leaf, a few drops of almond flavoring or liquor are all possible additions.

Prepare the plums while you bring other ingredients to a boil in a non-reactive pan, reduce liquid by about 1/3. Add plums and gently cook for three minutes. If sauce seems too thin for your liking pour off some of the juices, cool slightly and combine with 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Reheat until starch is cooked, it will be transparent. Excellent with pound cake, a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream. Homemade pound cake, good ice cream or real whipped cream recommended.

If you have a good supply of plums give one of these recipe suggestions a try and don’t be hesitant to tweak to your taste. These should work with almost any plum variety.

Thanks, Rose Marie!

Taking Chances

Weren’t those recipes out of the ordinary? Maybe they seem like old hat to you. For me, who’s only thought of plums dripping all over my hand or warm in a pastry, these recipes are pretty cool. It’s like I said at the beginning, getting a new perspective on something expands your understanding. Things you took for granted are revealed to be more than you ever expected. The root of inspiration and vision lies in the unexpected. Take a page from A.L. Kauffman’s life.

As A.L. Kauffman’s business grew, he decided to build a huge building. The story of the event is on page 14-15 of Faith, Family, Fruit. “In 1937 A.L. enabled his business to take a great step forward when he decided to build a large packinghouse along the Old Philadelphia Pike. This facility would provide space to process and pack fruit for wholesale and retail. This was quite a significant undertaking since the packinghouse was located along a small country road, somewhat out in the middle of nowhere. There were few other buildings in the area as extensive as the one he planned to build. Local people were amazed at that much space all under one roof.”

It’s been said that people thought that A.L. was crazy for building such a large building at such a time. How would he ever need that much space? Was he “plumb loco?” Or, was he a visionary? Seeing possibility where the rest of us don’t is is the kind of creative thinking that this post is highlighting. A.L. didn’t stop with the building. He had a vision for all that space. The story continues...

“With a large facility, A.L. brainstormed about ways to branch out into related areas so that his family and others in the community had work. A.L. added 492 six-cubic foot frozen food lockers to the packinghouse in 1944 and 444 more in 1946. Also around that time he began custom meat processing and in 1955 added a grocery department along the front side of the packinghouse.”

Tie it All Together

There it is. Such a story! And that’s just part of it! The stream of life meanders here and there. Sometimes it’s a blurred pinball, zipping back and forth. The next moment it’s crystal clear--gentle, quiet and still--a hot air balloon ride that’s high above it all. We just never know what’s around the corner. Looking back over our lives we often see threads or themes that connect things together. Next time you notice a connection between things you wouldn’t normally put together, take a minute. Think about it. See where it takes you. You never know, inspiration might be waiting for you in the most unexpected places.