Along with the typical back-to-school and fall-is-in-the-air vibe, for me September has always been a time to eat as many Italian prune plums as possible. My mother made it so: an end of summer requirement like the homework and piano practice to come, prune plums were to be eaten in great quantities, like a sweet drippy book end to all the fun and freedom I was leaving behind.
My favorite way to eat these special fruits is baked simply in a pie. The recipe is adapted from my mom who has been making some version of this pie every year for as long as I can remember. I've added a little extra spice and taken down the added flour, leaving a sloppier, more wild slice sometimes requiring a spoon. Also, like most of my desserts, this one isn't super-sweet so if you don't love the lip-pursing tang of a baked plum, increase the sugar by 1/4 cup or so.
Adapt and change as I may, it really does always go back to mom and a feeling for this pie that will never, ever change. Welcome to September. Why not mark it with pie.
makes one 10-inch pie
1 prepared pie crust
20-30 Italian prune plums (about 2 pounds)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, sliced thin
Preheat oven to 425° F.
Roll out the crust and press it into a 10-inch pie plate. Add any flourishes to the lip and place in the refrigerator to chill.
Slice the plums in half and discard the pits.
Mix the dry ingredients together in a small bowl. Pierce the pie crust with a fork in several spots along the bottom. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the dry ingredients evenly across the bottom of the crust. Layer the sliced plums around in a circle, lining the crust as evenly as possible. Sprinkle the remaining dry ingredients over the top of the plums. Carefully tap the pie plate on the counter to settle the flour mixture between the plums. Dot the top of the plums with the butter slices.
Bake for 10 minutes. Lower heat to 350° F and bake another 30-40 minutes, until fruit is bubbling and the crust is light golden brown. If, at any point, the crust begins to brown too deeply, shield it with a ring of foil.
Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream, Crème Fraîche, or a scoop of ice cream. Or, serve the cold leftovers for breakfast.
(Images: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan)