Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Mirabelle Emergency

We got a call from Aude & Seb asking us if we would come out and help save a tree. Something happened this season (the canicule in July?) and one of the old trees in the orchard behind the chateau produced an insane amount of fruit. The branches of this tree are so laden with ripe fruits that two large branches have actually broken from the weight, and more are at risk. They needed people to come and help relieve the tree of the weight.

I set a writing project aside and Loic re-arranged some of his work, and we headed out with a fruit palette and my shopping basket. When we arrived, they were waiting there with Lise, Sebastien's grandmother. She had a neck brace on, apparently she strained her neck while picking fruit. Aude & Sebastien led us up through the orchards (I grabbed a couple of apples along the way, as seen in the basket). When we neared the tree, a sharp odor of vinegar hit us, and I actually felt as if this old tree was in distress. The broken branches lay where they had fallen, still alive, clearly some fruit already rotted but many mirabelles still fine. Bees swarmed everywhere.

The sight that awaited us of the actual fruit was awe inspiring, the fruit on the branches reminded me of peppercorn pods - completely covering the branches.

We had a ladder and in a few minutes we had picked enough to fill both receptacles completely. They were guessing the number of tons of fruit that were left on this one tree.

We sat and visited for a few minutes and Lise gave me her proportions for Mirabelle jam, the one her family has made with these particular fruits every year.

Mirabelle Jam (as dictated by Lise)

For every one kilo of Mirabelles, use 800 grams of granulated sugar. Pit the fruit, and add the sugar, put it in a big bowl, and let it sit overnight. This will produce plenty of juice. The next morning, cook the fruit down for 20 to 25 minutes (I'll add that to make jam the best temperature to cook it to is 220F) and put it directly into jars, seal, & sterilize.

Lise laughed because she said that just the other day she heard an interview on the radio with the fruit growers in the Lorraine, the traditional Mirabelle producing region, who were all sad because this year's crop did not yield as many fruits as they had expected and hoped for.

We got the fruit home and Loic weighed it. 20 pounds. Oh Lord, how am I going to deal with all this fruit? We can give some of it away, and Jam is one thing, but there's only so much jam a person can put up before they become a nuisance pushing jam and fruit on everyone.

Not to mention the fact that I have a good number of peches de vignes I was planning on using before the mirabelle emergency happened.

I remembered a series of excellent dinners I shared with a friend, her husband is from the Ile de Reunion. His aunts and uncles come to the mainland every so often and before they arrive, they send ahead a huge package full of various flavors of home made "PUNCH". This was a delectable treat, served over ice on the terrace of their apartment. It is fruit along with its pits long macerated in Rum Agricole with a good dose of sugar syrup. When I asked him if there were any secrets, he said that for a successful "punch", you must burn the sugar when making the syrup. So with a few kilos of these mirabelles, I will burn some sugar and make some Punch. This will also make good giving at the holidays if it tastes good.

Otherwise I have a sheet of fruit drying in the oven overnight, Mother's suggestion. These will make good snacks when we're out biking. Our oven has a fan to keep the air circulating and we're leaving them to dry overnight. I am drying the fruit at 75C, 140F. It will make nice little mirabelle prunes. I wonder, should I salt them like I had in China? I loved the salted prunes my office mates shared with me in Beijing. Perhaps I should have dipped them in a salted brine before drying them. If these aren't sucessful I can always try another batch! I have a Chinese friend coming over and maybe she can help me decide what to do with some of these.

The remaining recipes I've scrounged up are:
Liqueur de mirabelles (done with eau de vie)
Tarte aux Mirabelles
Compote de mirabelles
Gâteau lorrain aux mirabelles
Tôt-fait à la mirabelle
two recipes for Pork and mirabelles, one a terrine and the other a roast
and Magret de canard with a mirabelle sauce.

Time to get cooking and maybe add some recipes to the notebook.

Labels: , ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

wonderful... yet how odd!

3:51 AM, August 25, 2006  
Blogger doggerelblogger said...

Personally, I would not object one bit if you decided to "force" some jam on us!

2:17 PM, August 25, 2006  
Blogger wheresmymind said...

What a nice little doing a good deed :)

3:34 PM, August 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah yes Lucy. I am from Lorraine and every year, we would have the Fête de la Mirabelle. Picking mirabelles was always something we did at my uncle's. I have a funny story about that actually, how his cows got "drunk" one day, because they kept eating the super ripe fruit that had fallen from the tree ;-)

Your story brings me home!

12:20 AM, August 26, 2006  
Blogger Jen said...

wow, what exactly are mirabelles? They look like peaches.

How amazing that this tree managed to be so fruitful to the point that its branches were falling off. It's wonderful.

2:46 PM, August 26, 2006  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Bea! I was thinking of you the WHOLE time because you mentioned picking mirabelles when you were little. We're working on using them all - but any tried and true recipes from a trusted source like the Tartine Gourmande would be so appreciated!

2:50 PM, August 26, 2006  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Jenjen, mirabelles are little yellow plums. Thank you for coming to see me and your comment!

8:34 PM, August 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow,we have just arrived home to broadstairs in kent UK from Metz with 4 kl mirabelles,so will use your recipe and sell the jars for our allotment funds.I wonder could we grow the tree on chalky soil.thank for input.fran

3:48 PM, August 28, 2006  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Hmm. The best thing to do is to plan the tree in accordance with all of the rules of growing a plum tree. I would research that if I were you. The Mirabelle trees that I have seen grow to be slightly larger than the apple trees in the orchard, so you can take that into consideration too.

9:43 AM, August 29, 2006  
Blogger cerf said...

I love nirabelles confetuer are these plum trees in the U.S.A ?

4:01 PM, February 23, 2008  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Dear cerf, this particular tree was in France, but I'm sure you can find plums of a similar kind in America.

4:08 PM, February 23, 2008  
Blogger Alan & Christina Agee said...


my husband is stationed in Ramstein Germany. Since May we live in this beautiful old farm house with a huge yard and large orchid.
Besides 5 mirabelle plum trees we have 4apple trees, 4 different kind of plum trees and 2 walnut trees plus the whole yard is surrounded by blackberry bushes. I love it.
I had several people come harvest yesterday because I can not preserve them all. Today I went online to find a good mirabelle jam recipe and found your page. My word Lucy!! You need to write a book. I love to cook (it's my deepest compassion) and I love your recipes. Wow!

3:18 PM, August 19, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lucy how good to find your page. My husband found some Mirabelles on a sight that he is working on brought me 1lb back so I am now using your jam recipe.Thank you so much

3:13 PM, August 29, 2009  
Blogger LoveNewRecipes said...

Hi Lucy, I have a bucket of ripe Mirabelle Plums that I would like to make into a liquor. Are you able to share your Mirabelle Plum Liquor Recipe? Thanks

11:37 AM, January 12, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Try the rhum arrange, delicious.

6:55 PM, May 11, 2010  
Blogger pooh said...

Hi Lucy,

I'm your new fan : ) I really love your pages and stories, thank you, for sharing them with us!!

Do you have a Clafouti recipe to share? I'd love to make Mirabelle Clafouti for my hubby one day. It's his favorite dessert : )

10:13 AM, July 25, 2011  

Post a Comment

<< Home