Summer is here and the rainbow of stone fruit has begun coloring the stalls at my local farmer’s markets. Though eating fruit out of hand can be a sublime experience, poaching some of those fruits in black tea is another distinct pleasure. Depending on the sweetness of the fruit itself, the brewed tea used as a poaching liquid can be sweetened just a little or not at all. The key to poaching delicate fruits is to heat the liquid, reduce it to the barest simmer, and then add the fruit. I like to cut the fruits in half, removing the pits, and after cooking to just tender, I allow the fruits to soak lazily in the liquid until cool. Remove them from the cooking vessel into a serving bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight to allow the fruit to imbibe the flavors of the tea generously.

Though peaches, nectarines, apricots and all of the hybrids in between can take well to this cooking method, plums are my go-to fruit most of the time. Their tart and fruity personality and often vivid colored flesh win me over every time. And if I get a bit ambitious, I can easily accompany the fruit with a spoonful of stovetop cooked custard, or, if I wish to spend just a little more time in the kitchen, I can create a gelatin-set panna cotta, (which uses heavy cream, yogurt or buttermilk, on their own or in combination, with some sugar and melted gelatin equal to 1% of the weight of the dairy, put into molds, chilled and then unmolded as the base for the fruits.).

The liquid left from the poaching can also serve as the basis for a great fruity ice tea spritzer by diluting it with a shot of sparkling water. Garnish it with a few wedges of the summer fruit and you’ve got a refreshing beverage suitable for any al fresco occasion.

Here’s the un-recipe to serve 4 to 6:

2 lbs fresh ripe plums, halved, with pits removed

1 quart of brewed black tea (any favorite Keemun, Assam, Kenyan or Sri Lankan tea would work well here): Use 2 T. of tea to 32 ounces of good quality water

Sugar to taste

Garnishes: Stovetop cornstarch thickened custard, panna cotta, toasted sliced almonds, as desired

First, taste the fruit on its own. In a heavy saucepan, bring the brewed tea to a boil, adding sugar gradually to reach the sweetness level you like. Cook until sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to the barest simmer and add the fruit carefully into the liquid. Cook over low heat until fruit is tender but not falling apart. Remove from heat and allow the saucepan to stand at room temperature until the mixture cools. Remove the fruit from the liquid and transfer it to a bowl. Store the poaching liquid in a covered container. Refrigerate both until ready to serve.

If you would like to concentrate the flavor of the poaching liquid, bring it to a boil over medium to high heat until it thickens slightly. Again allow to cool before storing it in a container with a tight-fitting lid.

Tea poached plums, panna cotta

Plums served with panna cotta.

To serve, place a few pieces of the fruit into decorative serving bowls. Top with the poaching liquid, reduced or not, and then serve, as desired with custard or panna cotta and a sprinkling of toasted sliced almonds.


Photo by Lauren Wemischner.