Years ago, I was intending to make Plum Sauce, but ended up using cantaloupe as there were no decent plums available at the time. In fact, other fruits are often substituted for the plums in commercial versions of the sauce and, ‘VH’ , the brand with which I am most familiar, while containing some plums, actually lists pumpkin as the primary fruit ingredient.
Last week, when the urge to whip up a batch came over me again, I could have chosen plums, if I wanted, as there were some nice ones available but, instead, I opted for cantaloupe again. The end result is every bit as good as using the traditional plum (hard to tell apart, in fact), and it is a good deal simpler to slice and dice a single melon than it is to peel and destone a crap-load of individual plums…
- 1 Cantaloupe;
- 1 small Onion, chopped;
- 20 Garlic Cloves (more or less… I used the cloves from 2 heads);
- ¼ cup Ginger Paste;
- 1 Tbsp. Salt;
- ¼ tsp. each powdered Cinnamon and Clove;
- 1 cup each of Sugar and Vinegar;
- ¼ cup coarsely ground Chili,
- 3 – 4 Tbsp. Lemon juice (or to taste);
NOTES: Plum Sauce is not a ‘hot sauce’ as such but most varieties have a little chili bite, so add as much or as little as you please. I have specified coarsely ground flakes rather than a powder as the little flecks of red add to the final appearance of the finished sauce. I have not listed soy sauce as an ingredient (and I didn’t use any) but in past recipes, I have sometimes used a splash or two to improve the color when the cantaloupe and other ingredients produced a very insipid, pale result. Likewise, the lemon juice may or may not be needed, but if the acid balance is a little lopsided near the end of cooking time, a little lemon juice rather than more vinegar adds a nice tartness.
First, slice and deseed the melon, then cut away the rind and dice the flesh. It doesn’t matter here if you cut really close to the rind and end up using some of the green flesh, nor does it really matter the size of the dice… everything is going to be pureed in the end anyway.
Next, add the chopped onion and the garlic cloves to the bowl of your food processor along with the ginger paste and salt. Whiz everything to a puree, adding a little water to keep the blades turning if necessary. The paste that results, is, by the way, the typical base for a whole range of curries, although that is a story for another day …
Heat a little oil in a deep pot over medium heat and add the onion paste along with the powdered spices. Saute for a few minutes until the flavors are blending nicely and the aroma fills your kitchen.
Add the cantaloupe, the sugar, the vinegar and the chili and turn the heat to low. Cook everything at a low simmer for an hour or so, adding a little water from time to time if the mix looks a little dry.
When the cantaloupe is really soft and everything is nicely cooked, puree using an immersion blender until smooth. Now, you should taste the blend, adjusting for salt, sweet and sourness and, if necessary, cook the mix down a little longer until the consistency is like that of an apple sauce. At this point, the product is ready for most uses (an egg-roll sauce, etc.), and you can transfer it to suitable jars for storage in the refrigerator.
Sometimes, you may want to refine the sauce a little so that it is smoother and presents a better appearance for presentation purposes (as a drizzle, for instance). In that case, you can use a food-mill, or just pass it through a kitchen sieve. This is a bit wasteful, if you simply discard all the flavorful pulp that remains but, if you lie, you can blend it back with just a little of the original mix and some additional water.
Here is a little of the ‘refined’ sauce in small dish for dipping. In this form, it will also make a much more sophisticated (or less ‘rustic’) sauce for stir-frying.
But, ultimately, the product you see above what this sauce is really all about … A thickish, robustly textured sauce with lots of spicy fruit flavors to enhance a wide range of delicacies.