Plums are juiciest at room temperature, but always wash them before eating or cooking. To pit freestone types, cut the fruit in half, twist the halves apart, and lift out the pit. To slice or quarter clingstone plums, use a sharp paring knife and cut through the flesh towards the pit.
European plums are better than Japanese varieties for cooking. Cooked plums are usually eaten with the skins on, but if you need to peel them, first blanch them in boiling water for about 30 seconds.
Baking: Place halved, pitted plums in a baking dish and sprinkle with sugar and spices to taste. Try adding a few spoonfuls of fruit juice, instead of water, and cover. Cook until tender, check during baking and add more liquid, if necessary. Cooking time: about 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven.
Poaching: Plums can be cooked whole (prick them with a fork first), halved, or sliced. For serving whole, cook the fruit unpeeled to retain the shape. Place the fruit in simmering juice, wine, or a mixture of water and sugar and cook until tender. Cooking time: 3 to 8 minutes (European plums cook much faster than Japanese plums).