KQED Food Blog: Bay Area Bites: Mirabelle de Metz
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Friday, September 02, 2005
Mirabelle de Metz


I was first introduced to this precocious plum known as the Mirabelle while dining at the unparalleled White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine. I was celebrating a friend's birthday and we had a choice of four intermezzos (palate cleansers). I left the decision in the gifted hands of Chef Jonathan Cartwright with whom I'd cooked with at the James Beard House in New York. His selection, given my starter and main course, was a Mirabelle sorbet. Thus began my quest to learn about this persnickety prune (prune is plum in French).



The Mirabelle is a small golden yellow plum with red speckles which grows mostly in the Lorraine region of north-east France on the border of Germany. The season is very short--just a quick two to three weeks in late August and is not to be missed! Known for being sweet and flavorful, the Mirabelle transforms not only the plain pie but makes delicious jams and preserves, wine and eau de vie.

Eau de vie (water of life) is a potent brandy distilled from fermented fruit juices and Mirabelle is one of the most popular along with Kirsch (cherry) and Framboise (raspberry). It has even found it's way into the champagne bottle. According to Veuve Cliquot, their '96 Gold Label Vintage Reserve, their self-acclaimed "biggest" champagne, boasts first impressions of citrus, peach, apricot, and Mirabelle plum.

The Mirabelle plum is believed to have traveled from the Southwest Asia in the 15th century to France, Metz specifically, where it was first recorded in 1675. Rumor has it that Alexander the Great himself delivered this little jewel. Given that, it's not such a stretch that the Mirabelle and plums in general remain an important part of Azerbaijani cuisine and their notorious slivovitz, the oh-so-potent Hungarian/Central European brandy akin to the Mirabelle eau de vie. Who knew...?



So what is a plum without a festival? Fortunately we won't know as Metz, home to the humble Mirabelle, hosts the annual Mirabelle Festival celebrating it's favorite fruit every August complete with parades, religious celebrations, concerts, fireworks, traditional dance....and let us not forget the ubiquitous festival queen, deliciously crowned Reine de la Mirabelle (Queen of the Mirabelle--in the middle, below).



This passionate plum has moved mere mortels to exclaim in poetry:

The word plum is delicious
pout and push, luxury of
self-love, and savoring murmur
full in the mouth and falling
like fruit
taut skin
pierced, bitten, provoked into
juice, and tart flesh
question
and reply, lip and tongue
of pleasure.

- American poet, Helen Chasin



So you are thinking, do i have to fly 6,000 miles to France to partake in these succulent delights? Bien sur non! Of course not, but you didn't hear it from me. Andy Mariani's farm stand in Morgan Hill grows a small supply of these delicate fruits. Dave Karp of the L.A. Times writes: "He always warns, "Don't tell people that I have a commercial orchard of these things." His output is just too small."

Now that you can find them locally, here is a simple Mirabelle Tart recipe. We made this on the barge a few weeks ago in Burgundy but were so busy inhaling the tart that we forgot to take pictures. Just picture a peach tart, but with little yellow plums... et voila!



Mirabelle Plum Pie

pastry dough, enough for one tart/pie shell
1 pound (500 g) fresh mirabelle plums
1 oz (25 g) flour
2 oz (50 g) heavy cream
2 oz (50 g) sugar
1 egg

- Preheat the oven at 180°C/ 350°F/ #7.
- Roll out the pastry dough.
- Line a pie tin with the pastry and blind bake until just barely golden.
- Wash the plums, halve them and place them on the pastry cut side up.
- In a bowl, whisk the egg and flour.
- Add the sugar and combine. Add the heavy cream and combine.
- Pour this mix into the tart shell around the fruits and bake for approx 35 minutes.
- NOTE: we had a very shallow tart tin but if you have a deeper pie tin, just double the recipe and fill to just below the top of the plums.
- Serve warm or cold.

Another recipe I found in cyberspace while researching Mirabelles is this jam recipe. I haven't tried it but it sounds good and easy enough for even me...

Mirabelle Plum Jam

- Wash and weigh the fruit and then cook them down in half their weight of water.
- Now add double their weight of sugar and simmer until thick and syrupy.
- Remove the stones by ladling the jam into a colander and picking them out....careful not to burn your fingers!
- Bottle in sterilized jars and store.

Bon courage (good luck) and bon appetit!




Andy's Orchard
1615 Half Road, Morgan Hill
www.andysorchard.com
Open during the summer
Mon-Fri 10am-5pm; Sat-Sun 10am-4pm
 
 

1 Comments:

Blogger cookie jill said...

I challenge other food bloggers to give aid to those who worked in the food industry and made New Orleans so flavorful:

New Orleans Hospitality Workers Disaster Relief Fund A fund has been established to benefit employees of the hospitality industry of the Greater New Orleans area who have experienced hardships because of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Contributions may be sent to:

New Orleans Hospitality Workers Disaster Relief Fund
Greater Houston Community Foundation
4550 Post Oak Place, Suite 100
Houston, TX 77027
Call 713-333-2200 for additional information

http://www.commanderspalace.com/new_orleans/index.php

9/02/2005 8:48 PM

 

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