Egg-shaped and smooth, Italian plums, or Zwetschken, have a bluish-purple skin and yellow flesh that gradually darkens as the fruit ripens. It is easy to remove the pit; in fruit parlance they are freestone. Thursday I had the pleasure of picking two kilos here in town.
Italian plums are the most widespread variety of plum in Austria. In addition to referring to Prunus domestica var. domestica/oeconomica, the word Zwetschken is sometimes used as a catchall phrase to refer to all subspecies of Prunus domestica. They are enjoyed fresh, baked in cakes, hidden in dumplings (see my recipe for Marillenknödel – simply substitute an Italian plum for an apricot), fermented to make Slibowitz or Zwetschkenschnaps (plum brandy), or transformed into Zwetschkenröster, a traditional compote made of stewed Italian plums.
This drupe is integrated not only into the cuisine but also into the language. Mein lieber Freund und Zwetschkenröster (my dear friend and stewed Italian plums) is an Austrian expression used as a warning to address someone whose behavior you find increasingly irritating. It’s a way of saying “I’d watch it if I were you.” If you have your seven plums together (seine sieben Zwetschken beinander haben), it means you have your act together.
Well, this weekend I got my seven plums together and made jam by myself for the first time, independent of the neighborhood jam-making guild as I did the first and second time. I feel I have now earned the right to the title of master jam-maker, or Marmeladen-Meisterin! My first batch was Ringlottenmarmelade, my second a variation on Zwetschkenröster with red wine, cinnamon, and cloves. Ringlotten are a kind of plum that I will describe in more detail in my next post, but now after all this action in the kitchen, I am plum(b) tired. Here are pictures of the fruit of my labor this weekend. And now it is time to stop before the puns get any worse…