Plum dishes add flavor to fall menus

Plums are the one summer fruit in which the outside offers little clue to its inside. A yellow plum may be red-fleshed, a red plum may be yellow, a blue plum may be green. The best way to tell what's inside is to take a juicy bite.

In choosing plums, select fruit that is full colored for its variety and firm , except for a slightly soft end - a good indication of ripeness.

Of all the plums grown in California, and there are over 140 varieties, the best known is the Santa Rosa, purplish-crimson on the outside with yellow flesh. Other popular varieties include Red Beaut, El Dorado, Laroda, Nubiana, Simka, and Casselman.

If you're eating plums out of hand, leave the skin on, because the contrast between the tartness of the skin and the sweetness of the flesh is part of the pleasure of this fruit and it distinguishes plums from other summer fruit.

Peeling is simple. Hold the plum with a fork in boiling water until the skin cracks, then slip the peel off.

As for pitting plums, some are freestones, such as Larodas, and the pits pop out easily, others are freestone enough to cut along the seam, twist neatly in half and cut the pit away from one side.

One pound of plums equals 5 to 6 medium-size plums, 21/2 cups sliced, 2 cups diced, 2 cups pureed, and 3 cups quartered or halved. Chicken With Plums 1 2 1/2-pound broiler-fryer, cut up 1 large clove garlic, mashed 2 teaspoons salt 1 teaspoon oregano 1/4 teaspoon pepper 2 tablespoons butter or margarine 1/2 cup packed brown sugar 1/3 cup lemon juice (2 large lemons) 6 large fresh firm plums, halved and pitted Hot cooked rice

Rub chicken with garlic, then season with salt, oregano, and pepper. Brown in butter or margarine in large skillet until golden.

Sprinkle with sugar and lemon juice. When sugar is melted, turn heat to low. Cover and simmer 40 minutes. Add plums. Simmer until all is tender, about 15 minutes longer. Serve over hot rice. Serves 4. Freezer Plum Conserve 6 8-ounce freezer-proof containers and lids 2 pounds fully ripened plums 5 1/2 cups sugar 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts 1 teaspoon grated orange peel 1/4 cup orange juice 1 1 3/4-ounce package fruit pectin

Wash freezer containers and lids in hot, soapy water. Rinse. Pour boiling water over all, inside and out. Invert on dish rack or clean towel, away from draft, to drain dry.

Remove pits and finely chop unpeeled plums to make 2 3/4 cups fruit. Place in large bowl. Stir in sugar, walnuts, orange peel and juice until thoroughly mixed. Set aside.

In small saucepan over medium heat, heat fruit pectin with 3/4 cup water to boiling. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Stir pectin mixture into fruit mixture. Continue stirring 3 minutes to blend well. A few sugar crystals will remain.

Ladle mixture into containers to 1/2-inch of top. Cover with lids. Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours or until set. Freeze, or if conserve is to be used within 3 weeks, store in refrigerator. Makes about six 8-ounce containers. Plum Nut Bread 3 cups sifted flour 4 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup sugar 1 cup chopped walnuts 4 to 6 plums, pitted and chopped (about 2 1/2 cups, chopped) 1 egg 3/4 cup milk 1/3 cup orange juice 1 tablespoon grated orange peel 3 tablespoons oil

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into large bowl. Stir in nuts and plums.

In another bowl, beat egg until thick and lemon-colored. Beat in milk, orange juice, peel and oil. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until blended.

Pour batter into well-greased 9 by 5-inch loaf pan. Cover lightly with tinfoil in a tent shape. Let stand 20 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees F. 20 minutes. Carefully remove top pan or foil.

Continue baking 50 minutes more, or until wood toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove bread from pan to cake rack to cool. Wrap well and refrigerate or freeze, if desired.

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