Plums! I under appreciated plums for a long time, but have come around to think of them as a rich, stately fruit that has the key advantage of staying in season through early October. Thanks to my beautiful sister-in-law Maurene, I learned a few years ago that plums also make a rich, sweet sauce with no added sugar and practically no effort required. So, when I saw a mega-deal on sweet French plums at a farmers’ market recently, I wasted no time picking up a full kilo.
While this basic plum sauce takes a bit of time, it demands almost zero active attention, percolates your house with an amazing smell, makes a big batch, and keeps well. I love mixing it into yogurt or oatmeal, or, for a treat, drizzling some on top of vanilla ice cream. The long cooking time seems to enhance all the plums’ natural sugars and, if you’re patient enough to let it cook down, the finished product will have an almost spreadable consistency.
This year we had a lot of extra plum sauce (probably because I was so eager at the market… go figure…) so I began thinking about other ways to put it to use. After finding some nearly-forgotten pork chops in the freezer, the path seemed clear. These tips from Bon Appetit on cooking pork chops were very helpful (although I often do break the rule and cook with boneless chops.. use what you can find, no?). To complement the pork, start with the basic plum sauce, add a little balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, then let it all reduce so the flavor-per-droplet is off the charts. A little fresh rosemary brightens things up and makes your plate look downright festive.
Whether you make just the sauce or go all the way with the pork chops, I hope you enjoy this as one more way to squeeze the last bits of goodness out of late summer/early fall produce.
Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Balsamic Plum Sauce
- 2 lbs. fresh plums
- 4 pork chops bone-in is ideal, but boneless is fine
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp. brown sugar
- 2 tbsp. fresh rosemary chopped, plus several extra sprigs for garnish
- To make the plum sauce, place the plums in a medium saucepan and add enough water to just barely cover the fruit. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Allow to simmer for several hours, until the water has boiled off and the remaining sauce thickly coats the back of a spoon. Remove the pits and process the sauce through a food mill to remove the skins. (This step can be done well in advance; the sauce will keep for at least a week in the fridge.)*
- Season pork chops generously on both sides with kosher salt and black pepper. Allow meat to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes before cooking.
- Warm a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat. When skillet is hot, add the pork chops and allow to sear for 2 minutes without touching the meat. After 2 minutes, flip the chops and allow to sear undisturbed for another 2 minutes on the other side.
- Turn the heat down to medium, and continue cooking the pork chops until their internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F. Remove immediately to a plate and allow to rest on the counter.
- Add 1/3 cup plum sauce, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and chopped rosemary to the skillet; stir to combine. Bring mixture to a brisk simmer, then reduce heat to medium low and allow to reduce for 8-10 minutes. If needed, add a small amount of water to ensure sauce does not become too thick and stick to the bottom of the skillet. (Whether or not you need to add water depends mostly on how thick your plum sauce was to start with. If it was very thick, adding a bit of water will help give the sauce enough cooking time for the balsamic vinegar to reduce properly and the flavors to blend.)
- Remove the sauce from the heat. Return the pork chops to the pan, nestling them into the sauce for a moment to warm through. Garnish with extra sprigs of fresh rosemary, and serve.