The Simple Addition That Makes Plums Taste Way Fruitier

Sometimes, the most unexpected and simplest of ingredients can completely transform how another ingredient tastes. For example, adding lemon juice to apple pie filling magically brightens the flavors of the apples, sugar, and cinnamon. Sprinkling salt on grapefruit actually makes the citrus fruit taste sweeter. Putting a little sugar into your homemade tomato sauce mellows the acidity.

Someone who knows exactly how to maximize flavor like a pro is Ina Garten, also known to her fans as the "Barefoot Contessa." Garten is a fan of pairing ingredients like vanilla and coffee with chocolate, and she knows how to add a pinch of salt in certain recipes to maximize their sweetness.

The idea behind these surprising touches isn't to change the flavor of what you're making, but to enhance it. One of the more surprising duos she's been known to use is adding crème de cassis to plums to bring out their "plummy flavor," as she put it on "Barefoot Contessa." The fascinating thing about this pairing is that cassis isn't made with plums at all, but a much different kind of purple fruit.

What is cassis?

Crème de cassis — which is commonly known simply as cassis — is a thick, low-alcohol liqueur that's made from blackcurrants. It can also be labeled as blackcurrant liqueur. Originating in France in the mid-1800s, cassis is probably best known as the liqueur that's added to white wine to make the French aperitif Kir, or to champagne to make a Kir Royale cocktail. It's used in a number of other cocktails as well, such as the Bramble, French martinis, and El Diablos. Cassis has a very rich, dark berry flavor. When combined with fresh plums, it enhances the summer stone fruit's tart skin, as well as its sweet interior.

If you add some cassis to your plum recipe, you probably won't taste a strong cassis flavor. Rather, the plums you use in tarts, crumbles, cobblers, and pies will have a more pronounced pluminess. In her recipe for plum crunch, Ina Garten uses 6 tablespoons of cassis to mix into 3 pounds of Italian prune plums to enhance their fruitiness. Crème de cassis has a good amount of sweetness as well, so it's important to factor that in when you use it in a food or drink recipe.

Cassis can go beyond plums

Cassis has a naturally syrupy consistency, so it's great for adding to plum cobblers and crisps. You can even mix it into a goblet of fresh, sliced ripe plums and top it with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for a simple summer dessert. Because it has a sweet, berry flavor, you don't have to reserve it just for plum dishes. Try it in a variety of stone fruit recipes, like desserts that contain peaches, nectarines, cherries, or apricots, for an unexpected flavor combination. It would also work well with berries: Think mixed berry ice cream, razzleberry pie (also called triple berry pie), stone fruit sorbet, or a kicked-up raspberry jam.

For savory dishes, add a bit of crème de cassis to blackberry compote and serve it up with pork or venison. Try adding the liqueur to homemade barbecue sauce, or use it in a glaze for roast chicken. Summer is a particularly good time to keep a bottle of crème de cassis in your kitchen, because there's such a large variety of plums, stone fruits, and berries that are in season.