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The plums are ripe, and there are lots of ways to use them

Plums come into season from June through August, with some later varieties in September. You'll find them reasonably priced at farmers' markets and fruit stands, or maybe if you're fortunate you have a tree in your yard or know a neighbor who has one. Any variety of plum is delicious eaten out of hand ... Green Gage, Bradshaw, Santa Rosa, Italian, and Damson are some of the well-known ones. They vary in color from yellow and red streaked, all red, or yellow, purple, to the dark blue of the Italian prune plum, which is still the most common and cheapest.

Any fresh variety can be used in the following recipes.

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Plum-Pudding Cake 1 cup diced fresh plums 1-1/2 cups sugar 3 tablespoons butter 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 1 cup flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 cup milk 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Mix together 3/4 cup sugar and plums in small saucepan and heat slowly.

In mixing bowl, cream butter, remaining sugar, and vanilla thoroughly. Stir flour and baking powder together and add to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Mix well.

Pour into greased 8-by-8-inch-square pan. Cover with hot plum mixture. Sprinkle with nuts.

Bake at 300 degrees F. for 45 minutes. Serve warm or cold with whipped cream or topping.

Serves 6 to 8. Delightful Plum Fritters 1 cup all-purpose flour 2 tablespoons sugar 1 tablespoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 egg 1/2 cup milk 1 tablespoon salad oil 1 cup diced fresh plums Hot oil or shortening

Stir together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. In mixing bowl combine egg, milk, and oil, and mix well.

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Add flour mixture, stirring until moistened. Fold in diced plums. Drop by tablespoons, 4 or 5 at a time, into hot oil or shortening, heated to 375 degrees F.

Fry 3 or 4 minutes, until brown, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Makes 16 to 18.

Fresh Plum Sauce 4 or 5 fresh plums, sliced 2 tablespoons sugar 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Place all ingredients in food processor or blender and blend until smooth. There will be tiny specks of peel. Makes 1 cup.

Serve on pancakes, waffles, pudding, cake, or ice cream.

Jack Horner Plum Drops 3/4 cup flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 1/2 cup butter or margarine 1/2 cup brown sugar 1 egg, beaten 1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal 1/3 cup milk 1 cup diced plums, fresh 1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional

Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg together. In mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg, oatmeal, and flour alternately with milk. Beat well. Fold in diced plums and nuts.

Drop by heaping teaspoons on greased cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Bake at 400 degrees F. 10 minutes, or until firm. Makes 2-1/2 dozen.

Plum Nut Bread 2-1/2 cups flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon salt 2/3 cup brown sugar 1 egg 2/3 cup salad oil 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 cup milk 1-1/2 cups diced fresh plums 1/2 cup chopped nuts

Mix together flour, soda, and salt. Set aside.

In mixing bowl, combine sugar, egg, oil, vanilla, and milk. Beat well. Add dry mixture and stir until well moistened. Stir in nuts and fold in diced plums.

Pour into greased, floured 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 1 hour or until it tests done.

Country Plum Pie Pastry for 2-crust, 9-inch pie 4 cups sliced fresh plums 3/4 cup sugar 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 cup flour 1 tablespoon lemon juice Butter

Line pie pan with pastry. Mix plums with sugar, cinnamon, and flour.

Pour into shell. Dot with lemon juice and bits of butter. Cover with pastry, prick top with fork.

Bake at 375 degrees F. for 45 or 50 minutes until browned. Serve with ice cream or sliced sharp cheese.

Fresh Plum Betty 1/3 cup butter, melted 2 cups soft bread crumbs 4 cups diced, fresh plums 3/4 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 4 tablespoons fruit juice (lemon, orange, pineapple)

Mix butter with crumbs. Spread 1/3 of crumbs on bottom of buttered casserole.

Mix plums with sugar and cinnamon. Cover crumbs with half of plum mixture. Sprinkle with half of remaining crumbs. Add remaining plum mixture and cover with remaining crumbs.

Drizzle fruit juice over layers, using a little more if mixture seems dry.

Cover and bake at 375 degrees F. for 25 minutes. Remove cover and bake for 25 minutes or until plums are tender.

Serve with ice cream or whipped topping.

Grandma made a simple plum jam by combining equal amounts of sugar and diced fresh plums in a heavy saucepan and simmering slowly for an hour or two, while stirring frequently. When of desired thickness, pour into sterilized jars and seal. Delicious on hot biscuits or toast.

Try substituting diced fresh plums in some of your favorite recipes that use fresh fruit - muffins, cakes, fruit crisps, bar cookies, etc. The change is delightful.

Also, try stewing sliced fresh plums with a little sugar to add zest when served with meat and poultry dishes, or to baste ribs and chicken when grilling.

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