The idea of a natural sweetener isn’t a concept that resonates particularly well with my family. “Can you pass the Equal?” “Is there a Splenda?” These are words you will hear often if you ever eat with my mother or grandmother. And when I put that brown “raw” sugar packet in my coffee? I may get scolded with: “Why do you have to use sugar? It’s fattening!”
Yet, even real natural sugar–the brown stuff–can be cloying if you add too much to oatmeal in the morning. The other day, when I was making myself breakfast, I pondered the famous chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten who’s known for replacing buttery stocks and sauces with fruit and vegetable juices. I had just purchased a carton of dried purple Italian plums from Murray’s cheese:
If prunes are the geriatrics of dried fruit, these purple plums were like their feisty, younger cousins. I took a handful of them and added them to simmering water with just a handful of sugar and a pinch of salt:
I simmered them gently for about 20 minutes until I could squish one easily with my spoon. Here they are cooling off:
As they cooled, I started making oatmeal. Normally I like the slow stuff (Irish oatmeal), but at this particular moment I wanted the fast stuff (quick-cooking rolled oats.) When the oatmeal was just finishing its thickening, I added the Italian plums and stirred them vigorously into the mix. They broke up and colored the oatmeal purple as you can see in the lead photograph.
And even though I’d added a handful of sugar to the poaching liquid, it wasn’t as much sugar as I might’ve added to the oatmeal if I didn’t have the plums there to also sweeten things up. The finished oatmeal was colorful, relatively healthy and mostly naturally sweetened. Of course, if you make this for my mother or grandmother, you’ll have to tell them that you used Splenda or Equal. They won’t eat it otherwise.
Other Oatmeal Posts: