A Little Grape Jelly is a Surprise Ingredient that Highlights the Plums’ Flavor.
When it comes to desserts, pies reign supreme in my home. It may have something to do with coming from the south and watching my mother and grandmother make pies when I was growing up, but a well made pie is at the very top of the dessert food chain, as far as I’m concerned. And it’s not only about the eating, but the process requires you to slow down and take your time. I love everything about making a pie, from beginning to end. I always start the day before by making my pie dough and giving it an overnight rest and chill before rolling it out and finishing it up the next day.
The crust I put together for this recipe is made in a stand mixer and is only mixed for a matter of seconds before turning it out onto the counter and then using a technique called fraisage, which is simply a French word for using the heel of your hand to rub the dough into layers. It couldn’t be simpler and takes only a couple of minutes at the most. I like using a stand mixer more than a food processor because the pieces of butter remain larger and there’s no chance of overworking the dough. The end result is a beautifully flaky pie crust.
After rolling out both the top and bottom crusts, and putting them in the fridge to chill, I put together the filling ingredients. I’ve used plums, combined with other fruit in pies, but this is the first time I’ve made one that is exclusively plums. Well, almost exclusively, because I used a mix of black plums, red plums, and pluots. You want the plums to be fairly firm, not soft and overripe. Fresh sage is lovely with plums, so I thought I’d add a little to the this pie.
I also took a tip from Cheryl Day and added a surprise ingredient – grape jelly. She said it brings out the flavor of plums and I was intrigued.
The thickening agent that’s become my favorite for using in fruit pies is Instant Clear Gel, but you can also use cornstarch. I like the Gel because as its name implies, it is perfectly clear and has a natural mouth feel. I mix it with sugar and a little salt, add the plums, sage, jelly, and lemon juice, and stir it up thoroughly.
After mounding the filling into the pie shell, I drape on the top crust, seal it, cut a few air vents into the top crust and pop it into the freezer for about 20 minutes. I want the pie crust to be nice and chilled before baking. Right before it goes into the oven I spray it lightly with water and sprinkle on approximately 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar. This gives you almost another distinct crispy layer on the top crust. I’m not a fan of egg washes on my pies for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it browns too quickly, giving the illusion that the crust is fully baked, when in fact, it is not. And I don’t like the glossy mouth feel. I like my crust to be crunchy and crackly.
Finally, a word on how long to bake a pie. I can’t stress more strongly the importance of fully baking a pie. The pie needs to bake long enough to completely brown the bottom and top crust, along with making sure the filling bubbles and the fruit is tender. In this case the plums soften easily, so there’s not a big chance of them ending up hard. If your pie crust is pale, then the crust is not cooked. You will have a soggy bottom crust and the top will not have cooked long enough to develop the proper flavor and texture. To put in the time and effort to make a pie, and to then remove it from the oven too soon is just sad. What could have been a great result is instead a mouthful of doughy mush. Please keep it in the oven long enough. Let the edges get really good and brown. That’s when the magic happens.
As to the final result of this particular pie? It may be my favorite fruit pie of all time. That quarter cup of grape jelly really does bring out the brilliant flavor of the plums. And the sage is beautifully fragrant, but subtle. I’m going to be baking another one before plums go out of season.
As I mentioned earlier, baking a pie takes time and I enjoy every bit of it. But when pie is on the menu, dinner will be light, simple, and easy. I’ve spent time on the pie and let’s face it, no one is really concerned about what comes first because it’s all about getting to that glorious pie.
My husband loves fruit pies. Sour cherry has long been his number 1, followed by blueberry and apple. This Plum and sage pie fits right in there! Outstanding. Thank you.
Diane, I love this so much. Wow. To be included in your husband’s top 4 best pies is quite the honor. Thank you so much!
I’m curious, do you prefer a glass pie pan or a metal one? And why.
I’ve avoided making pies, actually, it’s the crust I can’t make, so I buy the prepared crusts in the dairy case. And, my hubby says his mother made the best apple pies so I know I can’t compete.
I really need help!
Karen, I fully understand, but I highly encourage you to bite the bullet and start making your own pie crusts. There isn’t the slightest bit of comparison between a store bought crust and a homemade one. Your first one probably won’t be perfect, but who cares? You will learn so much from the process. Remember to keep your ingredients cold. I even chill my flour. But I live in South Florida where it is always warm. Sometimes when I’m rolling out my dough it will start getting too soft and I pop it in the fridge for 10 or 15 minutes and then keep on going. As to the type of pie dish I use, I use glass Pyrex pie plates. I read recently that a metal pie dish actually works best for crisping up the crust, but I like to be able to see the bottom of my crust and know if it’s baked well or not. As to your husband’s mother’s apple pies, well, all I can say to that is how wonderful! But he hasn’t tasted your plum pie yet. Right? I’m here to help if you have any questions. Anytime.
Oh my, this has Thanksgiving written all over it!
I so agree, Jeanne. I think it would be perfect for Thanksgiving, too.