Monday, August 26, 2013

Plum Cobber AKA Plum Crisp

Plum Crisp with Scoop of Ice Cream
Late Season Black Plum Crisp

Recipe by Mary

Two things that many Americans remember from their childhoods are family friends and fruit cobblers. Our parents’ friends become our own friends as we share experiences that become treasured memories of our childhood. We might not see these friends frequently as we age, but they are forever in our hearts. When we do talk, it seems as if no time has passed. Like old friends who are always there for us, so are fruit cobblers: easy to be with, reassuring, and nostalgic. Old friends and cobblers remind us of our youth, of summers gone by. And a cobbler made by an old friend gives us a double dose of comfort.

Piece of Yellow Plum Crisp with Dollop of Whipped Cream
Gluten-free Mirabelle Plum Crisp with Quinoa Flour
My husband discovered this recipe on a notecard sent to his deceased father by Mary, a longtime family friend whose kids grew up with Bruce and his siblings. Mary incorporates healthful rolled oats as well as (optional) chopped nuts in the topping. She prefers mixing by hand rather than the quicker food processor method, because the oatmeal and nuts look prettier and taste more substantial. After we chatted by phone, I tried this and agree, so I’ve eliminated the food processor method. If you prefer, throw all of the topping ingredients into the processor, but process for only about 3 seconds at a time.

Yellow Plums in Baking Pan Being Sprinkled with Crumble Mixture
Mirabelle Plum Crisp in Process
All plums are not created equal in terms of amount of liquid inside. Hard, dryish black plums (now in season) are best precooked for a few minutes to release the juices before adding the topping. Extra juicy plums, like the popular yellow cultivar Mirabelle, are best drained before measuring into the pan. Extra juicy plums also benefit from precooking, as the topping will absorb less juice and be crispier. This density difference makes it somewhat hard to give exact measurements for the amount of fruit. Essentially, you want to cover the bottom of the pan with about 2 layers of well-drained plums.

Leftover Purple plum Crisp
Black Plum Crisp after Round One
Purists will note that this is actually a crisp (AKA crumble), not a cobbler. Crisps have a crumbly topping made with sugar, butter, and flour. Cobblers are topped with batter or biscuit dough. But as I overheard in a recent party conversation about this very subject, cobbler sounds better.  Call it as you will, the simple preparation and straightforward fruit flavor might inspire you to experiment with this recipe and other fruits. Mary suggests in-season apples. Thank you, Mary!

Two Pans of Mirabelle Plums with Double Recipe of Topping in Bowl
Double Recipe to Make Two Cobblers
Plum Cobbler, AKA Plum Crisp
serves ~12

~1½ lbs. plums
1 – 2 tsp. granulated sugar as needed
1/3 cup pecans, walnuts, or almonds
½ cup old fashioned rolled oats
¼ cup wholewheat pastry or other flour
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. walnut or organic canola oil
2 tbsp. butter
Yogurt, sour cream, whipped cream, or ice cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Pit plums and cut into quarters, or sixths if large. Arrange in an 8 inch square pan or 9 inch pie pan. If plums taste tart, sprinkle with 1 or 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar. If plums are either dry or very juicy, precook at 400 degrees F. for 15 minutes while making topping.

Chop nuts finely.

Mix together rolled oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in chopped nuts. Add walnut oil and mix together with fingers until consistently crumbly.

Cut butter into half-inch chunks and add to topping mixture. Mix in with fingers until crumble mixture looks consistent.

Sprinkle topping evenly over plums. Put cobbler into oven and reduce the temperature to 375 degrees F. If plums were precooked, bake for about 20 minutes. If plums were not precooked, bake for about 40 minutes.

Let cool to moderately warm before serving, or serve cold. Add a generous dollop of sour cream, yogurt, whipped cream, or ice cream if desired.

Note card with Teapot, Cup, Plant, and Fancy Linen
Card that Mary Sent with the Recipe


  1. Hi Robin! how very lovely! This especially makes me think of the abundant plum harvests we had from the old home garden! Plum trees are one of the easiest trees to grow/propagate, very hardy trees, and we always had a coupla trees started from cuttings I think. (Eric knows about fruit trees). San Jose and this area was always so well known for all kinds of plums, I love them.

    Thank you for keeping the old family recipes going, that means so much to me.
    And of course, especially thank you for this beautiful blog!
    It is so enlivening to see the work you've done here. Food has a lot of meaning to all of us. Reading your blog is so fun.

    Much love to you and Bruce,
    Lisa x0x0x0x0

    1. Glad that you're enjoying Seasonal Eating, Lisa. Let Bruce or me know if there are any family recipes you'd like us to investigate and publish.