Italian prune plums -these gorgeous, velvety-looking, oblong fruits- are beginning to trickle back into season, and I'm excited about their return. It means that summer is starting to consider wrapping its hot self up so as to make room for the bluster and beauty of fall. The simple yet bright flavors of produce grown in extreme heat will give way to the more nuanced ones of autumn. It is at this point each year that I start to think of stews, warm spiced jams and fruit butters on fresh bread, steaming mugs of tea on cool afternoons. A scarf here, close-toed shoes there, a hint of cool as dusk sweeps out day. I start to consider making our beds with blankets layered between the sheet and comforter, I start to wonder where my cardigans are. As a few leaves flutter to the ground each day, I make a note to purchase more lawn bags, knowing that days of endless raking aren't far in the distance. Before I cooked and shopped with the seasons, I didn't have such basic markers by which to track the pace of time. I love that something as simple as a variety of plum can orient me, remind me just where I am at this moment even though everything else seems to be spinning faster and faster. The busyness of the school year's end is equaled only by its resumption, and with just three weeks to go until the boys return to their classrooms, well, we're busy. In the midst of it all, I look for tethers, and in some elemental way, seeing these plums last week was just such an anchor, and today, I'm going to make some plum butter. Fruit butters are a long process, but that's what I enjoy about them. You need your heaviest pot, a good wooden spoon, a food mill is a real plus, time is a must. Channel your inner nonna, and a treat of a day is in store.