Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mystery Fruit in My Own Backyard

Those of you who have been following the Mystery Fruit Tree saga and the recent Don't Eat These Mushrooms! thread know that I'm excited by culinary mysteries-- especially when they take place in my own backyard.
Mystery fruit as it fell in my tomato patch, late May 2011.
Looking up into the mystery tree, late Spring 2011.
Today, I'm hoping to enlist readers' help to get to the bottom of my current culinary dilemma.  We have our own version of the Mystery Fruit Tree in our yard and I think what we have is a Green Gage Plum.

I haven't had these plums since I ate them on my grandfather's farm.  I remember them as yellow-green, tart, and as my youngest daughter would say when we're forcing her to be polite-- "not my favorite".  We paid no attention to them last year when just a few rock-hard green golfballs rolled underfoot.  The squirrels ate them and that was fine with us.  This year, however, there are a lot more of them and they're growing lower on the tree so we can reach them before they hit the ground and crack open.

Here are seven qualities of our mystery fruit:

1.  Our mystery fruit grows on a tall (25- 30 ft.) tree that is able to withstand neglect and horrible pruning to make way for power lines.
2.  The fruit is green and ripens to a pretty yellow-green.
3.  The skin of our mystery fruit is thin and fuzz-free.  (No fuzzy peach-like skin as in Daniel's Mystery Fruit.)
4.  Our mystery fruit ripens and get soft (also unlike Daniel's Mystery Fruit.)
5.  Our fruit has has a very small pit-- about the size of an almond-- and the flesh clings to it tenaciously.
6.  When ripe, the flesh of the fruit is yellow and soft.
7.  The fruit is tart, but tasty.
Three views of our mystery fruit, June 2011.
I didn't know what to make of our mystery fruit.  If you have ideas, I'd love to hear them.  For now, I'm going to tentatively identify it as a Green Gage Plum.  And I've photographed it in several stages since I want to eat them up and not just identify them.

I happen to like a cobbler more than a crumble, so I decided not to use Daniel's recipe for Mystery Fruit Crumble, and make a Mystery Fruit Cobbler.

Mystery Fruit Cobbler
by Susan Lutz, adapted from a recipe by Daniel Marlos
Close view of Mystery Fruit Cobbler, June 2011.

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 shy cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup sugar for biscuit topping and 1/3 cup for fruit filling)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups mystery fruit or fruit of your choice (stone fruits and berries work best)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups water

Instructions:
  • Cream cold butter and 1/2 cup of sugar together in a large mixing bowl on high speed.
  • Mix flour, salt, and baking powder in a separate bowl and add to butter/sugar mixture, alternating with milk in three additions.
  • When incorporated, spoon into greased 9 x 11 inch baking dish or 10 inch cast iron skillet.  The dough will be thick and it is best to spoon "blobs" of the dough across the bottom of the pan.  It will not completely cover the pan and that's just fine.  The fruit will sink and your cobbler will end up with a nice fluffy crust when you pull it out of the oven.  
  • In a separate bowl, mix 2 cups fruit, 1/3 cup sugar (or more with tart fruit), cinnamon, nutmeg, and water.
  • Carefully spoon fruit mixture over top of dough.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes.
  • Enjoy immediately with vanilla ice cream.  If using store-bought ice cream, I strongly suggest Breyer's Natural Vanilla Bean.  NOT French Vanilla.  But that's a very personal choice.