Sour plum punch

Do these little plums not look like candy? Or maybe candies were modeled after these plums — small, round and bright-colored, they just make you want to reach out and grab a handful. But look out — they’re tart as can be.

The many stone fruits coming into season include these sour plums, also known as aras or arasiyeh in Arabic. You’re most likely to find them in markets catering to a significant Arab or Persian-Jewish population — they’re quite common in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda and the Muslim Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City (in photo, below), where you can find both the standard little plums — the multicolored ones that I bought — or the baladi version, which are slightly more expensive. In comparison, I saw only one or two vendors selling them in the Carmel Market and Tel Aviv’s Hatikva Market.

Many people who buy these plums intend to eat them raw in all their cheek-puckering glory, or add them into savory stews (or dry them to use later in the year in said savory stews). But there’s another option — treat them like any other sour fruit, and use them in sweet desserts. Doesn’t a sour plum pie sound lovely?

I originally intended to turn mine into a jam to be enjoyed all year, but they never quite got there, once I discovered the instant gratification that is this lovely sour plum punch. Modeled after an apple “sangria” we had at a restaurant (Piazza Cafe next to Dizengoff Square — pleasant place, good Italian food, not kosher), this is a super-easy way to prepare these plums, particularly since each little plum has a little pit.

If you don’t actually have access to sour plums, you could try making this with any other kind of sour fruit (or stone fruit, or apples, or pears …). You can make this alcoholic or non-alcoholic, depending whether you boil the wine once you add it. This recipe can be easily doubled or tripled.

For two cups (2-4 servings, depending on your glass size):

  • 150 grams (1 cup) sour plums (plus a few more for garnishes)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 small chips cinnamon (about 1 centimeter long and maybe 2-3 millimeters wide, broken off a larger cinnamon stick)
  • 3 peppercorns
  • 1 cup wine

Prep time: 25 minutes. Cook time: 5 minutes.

Put the plums, water, sugar, cinnamon and peppercorns into a pot, cover, and bring to a boil. No need to pit the plums first.

Let simmer on a low flame for 10-15 minutes, until the plums are soft. Then, mash them with a potato masher or some other utensil in order to break their skins. Let simmer another 10 minutes or so.

Pour the liquid through a metal mesh strainer in order to remove the pits. The strainer will catch the skins and pulp as well, and you can press/squeeze the pulp as much as you like in order to add it to the punch, too.

Add the wine to the punch. If you want this to not be alcoholic, then put the punch back into the pot and bring to a low boil for a few minutes.

Put the punch into the fridge to cool. Serve with several ice cubes in each glass, and top with a few fresh plums as a garnish.

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