When I planted my goldengage tree it was more out of curiosity and fascination than potential fruit volume. The fruit that I cannot get elsewhere or the rarer varieites are those that I chose to plant. My goldengage is in its second year and it produced seven fruits. I picked the two ripest and quartered them to share so that we could all enjoy a slice of this evasive plum. It was the most honeyed and nectarous of all the plums I had ever had. My quince is in its third year and has thus far given me nothing. Both trees have given me a wonderful blossom but with the weather and what not this hasn’t been my year.
Perhaps I am a little strange but I like to think my trees have personalities. The old apple tree is always top of the class; plenty of fruit but none that is particularly flavoursome. The apples are meant for pies and crumbles not really for eating. My goldengage seems to be the one that always tries really hard but makes a few mistakes. The quince seems to be a stubborn brute but you just know that when it does fruit there’ll be more than I know what to do with.
I am very fortunate that my local greengrocer shares my passion for the slightly unusual. They can’t go too far into the bizarre for fear of scaring away all their customers but they do try to get quinces, medlars, mulberries and the like. The lady who runs the shop is almost more enthusiastic than me about greengages. She has tried to get the golden but they are rarer than anything. I will happily settle for green if golden isn't around.
You will need:
250ml ready made custard
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp water
Small handful flaked almondsPut the greengages into a pan with the water and sugar and heat until the gages are softened and have released their stones. Remove the stones from the pan and allow the fruit mixture to cool. Toast some of the flaked almonds in a dry pan until golden brown. When the fruit has cooled, mix in the almonds and the custard and then put in an ice cream machine for about half an hour and then into the freezer. If you don’t have an ice cream machine put it straight into the freezer and then remove every half an hour, mix and refreeze until frozen.
If you want more of a sorbet then add less custard, if you want it more creamy then add more custard. In my experience almost anything will turn into ice cream given enough persuasion; I've not tried swede yet but here's hoping. If you do try a sorbet you might need to add a little glucose syrup to give it a better texture. We ate the ice cream after it had been in the freezer for about two hours and it was perfect. This made enough ice cream for four people to have a nice big scoop.Brain freeze seems inevitable when eating ice cream. I really truly hate it and so try to take my time when devouring cold things. This was no exception and what a great ice cream to take time over. The custard is such a great shortcut and lends its creaminess and slight vanilla flavour so well to the gages. The gages were subtle but singing with very slight tartness coming from the skins. The almonds added a lovely texture and background tone. I tried to keep the gages slightly sharp so that they could be tasted amongst the other flavours.
If you've ever wondered why almonds and cherries or plums are such good culinary friends then I hope that my picture above goes some way to explaining why. Get yourself a plum stone and crack it open. Inside the stone is what I will call a nugget. A nugget of the most intense almond flavour you can imagine. I'm not sure they are edible so don't take my word for it but I've eaten a few and despite them being very bitter the almond flavour is almost overwhelming. Every day is a school day.