Plum Crazy Part II — “Kitchen Sink” Recipes: Christmas Chutney and Smoky Plum BBQ Sauce

Some of my best dishes haven’t been recipes at all… they’ve been what my Grandma Verla calls “kitchen sink” recipes, as in that you use everything but the kitchen sink, and use up that half-bag of whatnot in the cupboard and the half-cup of what-have-you in the fridge.

It's all about knowing what tastes good together. You don't have to be a chef, you just have to love food.

I was planning already to take some of my friend’s plums and smoke them in my smoker to make a nice BBQ sauce. After smoking a few kinds of meat this past weekend, over wild apple wood chips (mixed with a handful of chips made from the oak barrels they make Tabasco in), there was only an hour or so to smoke the plums, but I know they got some of that delicious woody flavor.

The beginnings of BBQ sauce.

I also added some fresh and non-smoked plums, as well as some smoked garlic and smoked jalapeno. It all went into a big pot with oranges, orange juice, dried and chopped figs, a shot or so of brandy, a cup of my neighbor’s homemade margharita hot sauce, apple cider vinegar, some chili-lime flavored finising salts, candied ginger, shallot and garlic oil, tomato paste, a bay leaf, allspice, a dash of cinnamon, and various peppery spices. I let it simmer for hours and I am so glad … it has a delicious, sweet and peppery flavor, and a citrusy aftertaste.

I also tweaked a delicious spiced plum chutney recipe: swapping the demerara sugar for half white and half brown sugar, plus I added raisins and some candied ginger for extra spiciness. This is so easy to cook, and like the best recipes, is born out of what you have lying around. It smells amazing while it’s cooking, and you can see as the cooking progresses how wonderfully the ingredients work together.

The before photo:

"Before"

As it’s cooking:

"During"

And the finished product. So yummy.

"After"

It’s lovely and tastes amazing on some pork tenderloin and chicken. I learned also that chutneys are best when they ave been allowed to sit and ferment for a few months. I can’t wait to break this out again for the holidays!

** Note: After this post was made live, it was brought to my attention that my altering of the chutney recipe (adding raisins and ginger) might have altered the acid levels in the chutney. I used a pressure canner to seal the jars of BBQ sauce and chutney in this post. Just to be on the safe side, if you alter the recipe like I did, I would recommend that you seal the jars in a pressure canner instead of a water bath.

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Plum Crazy, Part I — I still have all these oranges

I am lucky enough to live in San Diego, and to have a lot of friends with fruit trees. Really, most things grow well around here if you try hard enough, but even a tree that is neglected most of the year can yield some great fruit. Most of them yield more fruit than any one person knows what the heck to do with, but that’s a perfect time to experiment!

Fresh from the tree!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I now own a really cool smoker that has already proven its worth in smoking garlic, jalapenos, pork tenderloin, chicken, sausage and steak. I’m also a sucker for a good sauce. My first idea is for a smoky plum barbeque sauce, building on what I recently learned about smoking garlic. I’m also leaning towards something that isn’t jam — I’d hate to become predictable — and I found an amazingly good-looking recipe for a Christmasy plum chutney. I learned that chutney is best if you seal it and then let it sit for a few months, so this is a perfect summer recipe to be holiday gifts later. 

The first bag of plums had been picked a couple of days before, and were given to me late last night. It became clear that these would have to be made into something immediately, and that most were fully ripe, if not borderline mushy.  This calls for a liquor emergency! Brandy and large mason jars, stat!

And, let’s face it, I still have a ton of oranges from another friend’s tree. I sliced about 5 oranges, peel and all, and removed the peel totally from another 8 or 9 oranges. This jam will need to have a little bitter flavor to offset the plum and spices. I prepped the oranges (i.e., sliced them, covered them in water) and let them sit overnight.

The next day … the oranges have been sitting at room temperature for 24 hours. I open up this huge bag of gorgeous plums. Ok, first things first. I have to triage the plums into the too-far-gone for use (to the garbage bag — sorry fellas); the cutting board to have pits and blemishes removed, then the good parts scrapped for jam; and the ready mason jars for the intact and pretty ones.

First, for the brandied plums. Equal parts brandy and sugar (I started with 4 cups each and that was only enough for two large jars), and only fill the jars about halfway with plums so they all can freely move around in there. That was easy … and these will be EXCELLENT in a couple of months!

The syrup is equal parts sugar and brandy.

Next, the jam. I prepared these oranges the same way I did in the citrus jelly post, so that I won’t have to add a tonnage of extra (and unneeded) sugar or storebought pectin. After bringing the oranges to a boil and letting them simmer for about 45 minutes, I strained the liquid through a jelly bag, and used the liquid – equal parts liquid to sugar. Then I added it to a pot of already-softening chunks of plum, fresh orange slices, and cinnamon. It doesn’t look like much, but it makes the house smell like Christmas. 🙂

Check back for the next post! With the next sack of plums I get, I plan to make chutney and barbeque sauce.