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Turn these ‘sugar plums’ into sweet dried treats

Recipe: Bake a batch of California prune bars

French plums, right, become delicious prunes. (Photos by Debbie Arrington)

Call them dried plums or prunes; either way, they’re delicious – especially when made with fresh French or Italian plums.

These elongated “sugar plums” flourish in the greater Sacramento area. In the last weeks of summer and early fall, they’re readily available in farmers markets – or, if you're lucky, in your own backyard.

French and Italian plums grow well in the Sacramento region.

Due to their high sugar content, these sweet ovals make good preserves, wine and brandy as well as fantastic prunes or dried plums. Freestone, these varieties let their pits pop out with little fuss.

Dried at home, these plums are soft and pliable. In a dehydrator, French or Italian plum halves takes about 24 hours to dry to perfection. Store the dried plums in the freezer; they’ll keep for at least a year.

What to do with those dried plums? Any recipe that calls for prunes, of course.

For September snacking, try this recipe for California prune bars, a variation of old-fashioned date bars. This recipe is adapted from a 1970 classic, “The California Cookbook” by former Los Angeles Times food editor Jeanne Voltz.

California prune bars
Makes 18 bars


1 cup California prunes, pitted and coarsely chopped

1 ½ cups sifted flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cloves

½ teaspoon salt
Bake the bars for 30 minutes.

½ cup (1 cube) butter

1 ½ cups brown sugar, packed

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup chopped walnuts

2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

Butter and flour for dish
Instructions :

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch square baking dish or pan.

Chop prunes coarsely. Set aside. Sift together flour, baking powder, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Set aside.

In a large and heavy saucepan over medium heat, heat butter until melted and just bubbly. Stir in brown sugar and remove from heat. Let this mixture cool to lukewarm. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in vanilla.

Mix in sifted dry ingredients, chopped prunes, nuts and lemon peel.

These bars makes a great late summer treat.
Spread batter into prepared baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until top is lightly browned and springs back when lightly touched.

Let cool in dish. Cut into 3-by-1½-inch bars. 


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 3:

Make the most of gaps between raindrops. This is a busy month!

* Windy conditions brought down a lot of leaves. Make sure to rake them away from storm drains.

* Use those leaves as mulch around frost-tender shrubs and new transplants.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Plant one last round of spring bulbs including daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas. Get those tulips out of the refrigerator and into the ground.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers such as California poppies.

* Plant such spring bloomers as sweet pea, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Late fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from fall and winter rains.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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