Unique Ingredients: What Are Sugarplums And How Can You Use Them In Your Cooking?

Searching for that perfect holiday treat? Sugarplums, a Vicotorian era delicacy, bring tradition to modern day recipes. Use these ideas to make any celebration special.

Sugarplums are simply dried, sugared plums. A delicacy dating to the Victorian era, they were most popular as a Christmas treat but can be served year round. The technique of creating sugarplums, though time consuming, isn't difficult and the taste is powerful while still retaining that homemade feel.

Summer months, when plums are ripe but firm, equal the best time to make your own sugarplums. Storage in a cardboard box between sheets of waxed paper, will keep them fresh and usable through autumn and into the holidays. If making your own is too time consuming, many gourmet stores carry sugarplums.

Ingredients:

1 pound of plums

2½ pound of white granulated sugar

1 pint of water plus 2 Tbls water

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 utilize a home dehydrator.

To present as a gift, roll sugarplums in crystal sugar and place in a candy wrapper and box. Wrap with a plum colored ribbon; anticipate a large smile and hug.



Cut a few sugarplums into strips and sprinkle on top of a red-leaf lettuce and walnut salad. Add a sweet dressing to bring out the flavor of the plums.

Dice sugarplums and add to a packaged bread mix or fruitcake for flair.

Substitute diced sugarplums into any cookie or bar recipe that calls for dates or other dried fruit.

Top vanilla ice cream with a few sugarplums and honey, or sprinkle on top of cereal.

Vodka infused with sugarplums makes a very sweet cordial or good base for fruit flavored cocktails. Allow the sugarplums to infuse their flavor to the vodka for a good month. Transfer the flavored vodka to a smaller, decorative bottle and present as a hostess gift.

Sugarplums always make a great snack for lunch boxes or movies; and sneaking in a healthier alternative can't hurt.

Another version of sugarplums, less time consuming, more popular and fun to create with little chefs, can be made with dried figs.

Pull apart or slit a dried, whole fig and create a small channel for one or two of the following stuffings:

Peanut butter

Walnuts/almonds/peanuts

Candied cherries

Chunks of pineapple

Half of a mint or wintergreen cream patty

Half of a chocolate covered mint patty

Mini-marshmallow

Ground nuts mixed with honey

Roll the stuffed figs in white granulated sugar and place in a candy dish.

Either version will guarantee visions of more sugarplums dancing through your dreams.

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