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Dharma Plums, in which KitchenCounterCulture rises to the Plum Glut occasion with the savoury inspirations of salt, chili, ginger, garlic and beyond…

Plums are ripening on the trees and falling on the ground, and my friend Pippa has more plums than she and all her friends can manage. What a hectic thrill and opportunity to make Plum Kimchi and a British style chutney inspired by the same ingredients… with lessons learned from lacto-fermented pickles and dried plums a few years ago…

Four years ago with some underripe plums I made delicious pickles in salty brines, in the classic technique of lacto-fermentation– flavoured brine, salty to a level between tears and sea water, with the fruits weighted down under the water level to ensure an anaerobic culture. On the left, I’d added ginger, chili, and garlic, and on the right cardamom, black pepper, a cinnamon stick, and ginger.  They were wonderful, sour, tangy Amuse-Bouches, and we just popped them in our mouths with meals.

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That year I also successfully fermented then dried more plums for a kind of Umeboshi (loads of proper instructions for which abound on the internet). I did it by fermenting slightly underripe plums in a salty brine, then straining (of course reserving the brine as a wonderful “vinegar” elixir) then dehydrating the fermented plums on the top of a slow burning wood stove. This was the best technique I could imagine in a cold, wet end-of-summer Wales.  I still have a small jar of these today, and they are one of my precious treasures.  The liquid and the dried plum are both very expensive to buy. In Japan they use a different fruit which is translated as “plum,” but underripe Victoria plums worked really well.  This year I hope to try again with Damsons for a special, dark intensity.

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With these experiences as a background, and a few years of obsessive kimchi making behind me, inspiration struck to try to make a Plum Kimchi, for which I couldn’t find  much specific guidance.

Here’s the kimchi paste recipe that I pretty much abide by, though sometimes, depending if vegans might be among the eaters, omit the fish sauce– and I often add various root vegetables and mix and match with spicy red powders I happen to have around (say, Indian ones, or paprika plus chilli peppers) if I don’t have the specific (but very earthy and sweet and special) Korean powder– which isn’t, actually, too spicy really.

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My plums amounted to about 4 cups in volume, when I’d taken out the stones.

I mixed together:

1/4 hot pepper powder
All the cloves in a head of garlic (grown by my close friend Vicky)
grated large thumb of ginger
a bundle of sliced Welsh onions (scallions would be good, even leeks)
a handful of toasted sesame seeds (which always feel important)
Half a lemon chopped, because lemon makes plum come alive it seemed
1/4 cup seasalt (I could have reduced slightly with this volume of plums but it tastes right and I was winging it)

And added this “paste” to the plums.

And then I couldn’t resist throwing in a handful of blackberries because…. just because.

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I let the mixture sit for two days at room temperature, to ferment, and now I’ve decanted into smaller vessels which are in the fridge.  I’m hoping this Plum Kimchi will last for a few months, and maybe longer, into winter.  It’s new for me, fermenting this way with fruit.  I’ll let you know.

And the Verdict: Marvelous. It’s a condiment in its own right, but also like a spicy umeboshi “puree” and a raw chutney combined. It’s salty, sweet, tangy, oniony, garlicky, bright, deep, sour all at once.  It speaks to so many uses: at first I just imagined it on plate with Soba/ buckwheat noodles or brown rice and steamed greens, but of course on grilled meat or poached chicken it would be delicious.  I used it as a dressing for grated carrots, and that was yummy, and look forward to trying similarly on grated parsnips, turnips and swede (rutabaga).  Would be fab in something of a sushi nature too.  Or as a final ingredient in soup.

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And then I happened upon this blog— and could fantasise about Korean Pheasant Dumplings, especially if I happened to find one on the road, and could take that plunge.  And this would be a truly amazing, seasonal, local, healthful, globally inspired plate of food.

a PS Thank you to my friend Jaya for the phrase “Dharma Plums.”  How I wish I could share this Plum Kimchi with YOU!

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