Crostata di Susine Selvatiche (Wild Plum Tart)

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This is not a very practical recipe unless you chance upon a basket of wild plums at your local farmgate, like I did, while picking out some enormous, gnarled tomatoes, sunny zucchini flowers and purple and white eggplants the size of my fist. Or, even better, find yourself a wild plum tree that no one else (birds and bugs included) has noticed. In years of scouring farmers markets, I have never once come across wild plums, even though they are well-used in the Tuscan countryside (presumably in some lucky people’s gardens or properties) — when I was researching recipes for Acquacotta I was told homemade wild plum jam was a traditional ingredient in recipes like Monte Argentario‘s pagnotella, a christmassy cake that is somewhere between a fruit cake and a brownie.

So perhaps you can file away this recipe “just in case” you come across wild plums because I can positively say, their unique, lip-smackingly tart flavour is what makes this tart so very special. You can of course use any other plum — blood plums or, one of my favourites, greengages – for a classic crostata.

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These particular wild plums are also known as susine ciliegie, or “cherry plums” because, well, they are small, deep red and look a lot like large cherries. I spotted them at the little farm that sits at the bottom of Settignano, La Talea, an incredibly rustic and picturesque spot that sells their organic fruit and vegetables, as well as their ancient grains (in whole, ground or pasta form) — and I jumped on them. I still marvel at the fact that this farm is only 10 minutes drive from historic, bustling Florence.

There are only so many things you can do with wild plums, which are nearly as sour as lemons and the easiest way to transform them is into a ruby-toned jam. I could have left it at that, but to be honest, although I adore making jam, I rarely eat it — so it became a classic crostata, with my favourite trusty dough from Pellegrino Artusi’s 1891 cookbook, which I made with ground farro (spelt) flour from the farm. The spelt gives it a bit more character which I think is really fitting with the rustic origins and sweet and sour of the wild plums.

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Crostata di susine selvatiche
Wild plum tart

This is essentially my favourite jam tart, a riff on an Artusi recipe for the shortcrust pastry, which was always Marco’s nonna’s go-to pastry recipe as well. I prefer this a thousand times with homemade jam (like this apricot jam) or fruit that has been cooked down to a somewhat jammy consistency (like in these little cherry tarts) over store-bought jam, but it’s a fine recipe to use with a good store-bought one too if you need something like this in a pinch (you will need about 250 grams of jam).

For the jam:

  • 700 gr of fresh wild plums (or other plums, or sour cherries)
  • 400 gr of sugar (I used a mixture of half raw sugar, half white sugar)

For the farro flour pastry:

  • 250 gr farro flour
  • 125 gr cold butter
  • 70 gr sugar
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk (save the white for brushing on top of the pastry for a shiny crust)

For the jam:

Place the plums in a saucepan with some water — about 60 ml (1/4 cup) will do. Heat gently and let simmer until the fruit cooks down, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and pass the fruit through a food mill/mouli/passatutto to remove the skins and pits — alternatively you can do this by pushing the fruit through a sieve. You’ll end up with a bowl full of juice and smooth pulp.

Place the pulp and juice back into the saucepan and add the raw and white sugar. Bring to a boil and let boil rapidly — keep an eye on it — giving a stir occasionally until the foam subsides and it looks glossy. I like the freezer test — a blob on a cold saucer that has been sitting in the freezer can easily tell you when it’s ready. It should slide slowly and a poke will show wrinkles in the surface. I like this as a softer jam. Remove from the heat and let cool.

For the pastry:

Chop the cold butter into small pieces and add to the flour and sugar. Pulse or (if using hands) rub the butter into the flour until you get a crumbly mixture and there are no more visible pieces of butter. Mix in the beaten egg and the yolk until the pastry comes together into a smooth, elastic ball. Let rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. You can even do this the day before and keep in the fridge — in fact, on a hot day, this is a really good idea as the dough will be very chilled and easier to work with.

After resting, cut about a third of the dough off and set aside. Roll the rest of the dough out to about 3mm thickness and cover a 23cm pie dish, trimming the edges. Fill the pie with the jam (no more than about 1cm high) and roll out the rest of the dough into long ‘snakes’ then criss-cross these over the top, sealing the edges together by gently pressing. If you like, use the leftover egg white to brush gently over the top of the pastry. Bake at 180ºC for about 25 minutes or until it is golden.

 

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Comments

5 Responses to “Crostata di Susine Selvatiche (Wild Plum Tart)”
  1. Sally Mountcastle says:

    I love your blog and website and only discovered it today! My husband and I will be traveling to Florence (for the first time!) in November. When we made plans to visit in November, I was worried that it wouldn’t be a good time of year to visit, but after reading several of your articles, it sounds like a fantastic time for our trip! I’ll read your “A winter’s day in San Gimignano” several times this summer in order to take my mind off the heat in Hotlanta (Atlanta GA)! If you have any recommendations as to how we might experience the olive harvest during the time we’re in Florence and surrounding area, please let me know!
    Can’t wait to continue reading your beautiful writing and to try some of your recipes!

    • Emiko Davies says:

      Thank you! I think you’ve picked the absolute best time of the year to visit, it’s my personal favourite season. The olive harvest normally happens in late October, possibly earlier this year so that is something to consider. The best thing I think would be to contact some agriturismi or places where they harvest their own olives, and possibly get to a local Frantoio, a communal olive oil mill. Last year I visited one with Canto del Maggio, a wonderful B&B and restaurant about an hour from Florence and because they are small they were harvesting a bit later in November. It’s a highlight.

  2. Donna says:

    Hi!

    Followed your recipe from Food52–or something like that–for sugar free grape jam. (Just boil grapes, lol!)

    I made a huge amount. How long do you think it will it stay in the fridge since there’s no sugar, lemon, pectin, sterilized canning jars involved?

    Am looking for recipes now to pie or danishes or something with it….

    • Emiko Davies says:

      Hi Donna! Oh that’s great! Grape jam has a lot of natural sugars in it, from my experience it lasts very well, but if unsure you can use it up quickly in things like this crostata, on a cheese platter (it goes very well with blue cheese in particular) and also jam cookies like these occhi di bue: http://www.emikodavies.com/blog/gluten-free-occhio-di-bue-cookies-rainy-day-baking/ — you could also think of it as a replacement sweetener (it used to be used in Southern Italy instead of sugar) and use it on pancakes or in cakes. My husband even adds some to marinades for meat, such as when he barbecues pork ribs and wants a bit of sweetness instead of using sugar. Good luck!

  3. Hi Emiko,

    Love reading your blog about food. As it help me pass tine. Keep it up. :)

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