PLUMS WITH A THOUSAND NAMES: MAKE YOURSELF A DUMPLING

30/03/2020

Rossella Dosso, published in Fuoco Lento... 

Often used as synonyms, plums and plums are not equivalent. Close relatives, very close, but: the fruit is born plum (and is on the markets from July to September) becoming plum (to be consumed all year round) only once dried.

Fresh, dried or candied, the plums come in many varieties. Those widespread in Friuli are of the oblong type, not very large, to which the Germans give the name zwetschge, the Slovenian česplje and the Friulian sespis, which in Cividale becomes sespa, in Cormons cespa and in the valleys of Natisone ciespa. Plums are always plums, but those that grow beyond the Isonzo have a reputation for being the best. This fame is attested by the success obtained in a large part of Europe when, at the beginning of the 20th century, the farmers of Collio (but also those of the Vipacco valley) used to dry them. Not the common dry plums, which can be found on the market today: those were called Amoli Goriziani or Prunele (Suha česplja in Slovenian or Doblòn in Friulian). The procedure was this: once harvested, the plums were peeled with a small curved knife, then exposed to the sun on wicker racks. After taking on a beautiful golden yellow colour, freed from the bone, they were flattened and joined two by two, inserting in the middle an almond or a half walnut but also a sage leaf. They then underwent a sulphur treatment (to preserve them from mould) and closed in a glossy paper, as you do with chocolates. They were packaged in elegant boxes under the name Görzer Prunellen and took the road to the Viennese shops, even to Poland and Russia. The First World War destroyed most of the orchards and trade became extinct on the eve of the Second World War.

Originally from Asia, the name probably derives from Susa, an ancient Persian city. The discovery of plum seeds dates back to prehistoric times and the evidence of their presence in Italy refers to Pliny the Elder, who mentions them in his "Naturalis Historia", informing us that: "e myxis in Aegypto et vina fiunt" (from the small plums in Egypt are also made wines). In Friuli and above all in Slovenia, but also in Croatia and in various Eastern European countries, Slivoviz or Sljvovica, a distillate obtained from the fermentation of the fruit, is made, particularly in the Cividale area, and is also sprayed on the Gubana.

On the tables of Gorizia and Trieste, plum rhymes with dumpling. The "gnochi de plini" made their appearance - when the territory was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire - thanks to the Bohemian cooks, who worked for the aristocratic families. In fact, among the most renowned dishes of Austrian cuisine are the Marillenknödel, sweet dumplings stuffed with apricots. In the Collio, rich in these plants belonging to the Rosacee family, the variant of gnocchi with plums, which at the end of summer can be found in trattorias and houses, could only be born. They can be served as a first course, in such circumstances enriched with sage and a pinch of grated Parmesan cheese, or as a dessert - and this is the best-known declination - flavoured with melted butter, breadcrumbs, sugar and cinnamon. But, considering the caloric contribution, as the people of Trieste admonish: "Ocio a la balanza!". The translation seems superfluous.



GNOCHI DE PLUMS, THE RECIPE

  • 700 gr. flour, 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon butter, 5 tablespoons milk, 4 tablespoons sugar, 20 gr. brewer's yeast.
  • Dissolve the yeast with warm milk, sugar and a couple of tablespoons of flour and let it rise. Beat the eggs with the sugar, add the remaining milk, melted butter and flour. Add to the fermented yeast, work well and leave to rise.
  • Cut the plums in half, dry them and pass them through the sugar. Take a spoonful of dough, add half a plum and throw the dumpling in the boiling salted water. When the dumplings come to the surface they are ready. Drain them well and pass them in melted butter where the breadcrumbs will have been golden brown. Sprinkle them with sugar and a pinch of cinnamon and eat them hot.


Rossella Dosso - Gorizia3.0