California dried plums may be one of the most unique foods in nature. This uniqueness is derived from both the fruit itself and from processing. The California dried plum (Prunus domestica L.) is a Petit d’Agen variety with origins in France. In 1850 while others were attempting to mine for California gold, Louis Pellier, a French vineyardist, acquired a tract of rich topsoil near Mission San Jose. Here, he began experimenting with the cultivation of dried plums grafting choice cuttings of the d’Agen rootstock onto wild plum trees growing in the valley. As the seasons turned, Pellier’s patient work began to bear fruit, and the California dried plum was born.
While there are over 130 varieties of plums grown in California only about a half dozen have a high enough sugar content to be dried without fermenting while still containing the pits. In fact, prune-making plums contain twice as much total sugar at harvest than other varieties of plums. The processes involved in the production of dried plums have a significant influence on their chemical composition. The main sugars found in fresh plums are glucose, fructose and sucrose. Also, sorbitol is present.
When compared with fresh prune plums, the concentration of sugar increases in California dried plums, because of dehydration, but there are also qualitative changes in the proportion of individual sugars. The most striking change is the nearly total disappearance of sucrose, which is hydrolyzed to glucose and fructose during processing. The high temperature of drying disrupts cell structure, releasing fruit acids and invertase, which catalyze the conversion during the first few hours of drying.
Beef value-added cuts are a recently developed line taken from the underutilized chuck and round. The line consists of steaks and roasts that help meat processors, retailers, foodservice operators and cattle producers improve overall profitability while supplying more options to their customers. They allow consumers to enjoy more great tasting steaks and roasts that are easy to prepare and often moderately priced.
The top blade steak is a smaller cut from the top blade roast. Other names for the top blade steak include lifter steak. Though a lowly chuck steak, lifter steak is tender enough to grill, broil, or pan-fry, as long as it is marinated first. This is an economical and flavorful steak that is also great for making fajitas, London broil or substitute for flank steak or skirt steak. Marinating is a critical step to tenderizing lifter steaks, particularly if the marinade includes plum juice concentrate and the lifter meat is vacuum tumbled. Plum juice concentrate is a USDA approved natural flavor that when combined with other flavor system ingredients also helps to tenderize as well bind moisture all the way through cooking. Also important is the ability to shorten and simplify meat labeling with natural ingredients with known consumer identities. When processed using this method, lifter steak matches or exceeds that of flank steak and London broil.
Dried plums may naturally raise the value of underutilized proteins. Texture, flavor and consumer ingredient acceptance results from dried plums' unique composition. Labeled as "natural flavors", the non-characterizing flavor of dried plums may help improve the savory taste of proteins while rounding out the flavors of herbs and spices. Important for meat processors is the natural water-binding abilities of dried plum ingredients that when used in a vacuum tumbling process can add 12% or more weight much of which is retained throughout the final cooking process. The ability to control purge is improved.