Most plums belong to the species ‘Prunus domestica” with their origins in the Sloe and Myrobalan plum, and other species of Eastern European origin. Some well known varieties include Early Laxton, Early Prolific, Purple Pershore, Victoria, Czar and Marjorie Seedling. For the home cook and artisan, they provide a rich source of ingredients for Jams, Jellies, Sauces, Chutneys and Drinks. This year, multi award-winner Sarah Churchill from The Artisan Kitchen in Gloucestershire was awarded Gold from Taste of the West for her Early Rivers Prolific Jam.
Most years, we have good crops of Purple Pershore, Early Prolific and Victoria plums. Plums vary in pectin, acid and flavour. In my early years of preserving, a friend gave me a large bag of Pershore Yellow Egg. They did not make the best jam or jelly. I favour Early Rivers and Purple Pershore for jam or chutney and Victorias for desserts and occasionally chutney. Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course has two of the best, traditional chutney recipes using plums; “Spiced Plum Chutney” ( best with Early Rivers) and “Old Doverhouse Chutney, a recipe for Victorias. ” To get the best flavour with these recipes, add the sugar towards the end of cooking, not the beginning and seal the jars only with new screw top lids. Adding a waxed disc on the surface of the chutney is unnecessary and might not produce an airtight seal.
Plums need careful picking, to avoid bruising or splitting the skins. If plums are for eating, pick only when they are fully ripe. For cooking and preserving, pick plums slightly under ripe. This year, the exceptional good conditions during the summer months accelerated the ripening of plums and cooking apples.
Last year I experimented with plums, windfall apples and homegrown basil and produced anew recipe for a Plum, Apple and Basil Jam. This year, I’ve re-visited a favourite sauce recipe, Hot Plum Sauce.
Sauces are made from the same combination of ingredients as chutneys, but they are sieved during cooking to ensure a smooth, pourable consistency. Traditionally, the colour of a sauce is bright, so use distilled white malt vinegar and granulated sugar. Low acid Sauces, for example Tomato are water-bathed once bottled.
Hot Plum Sauce
Makes about 2litres
450g onions, chopped
225g raisins, minced
15g root ginger, peeled
15g hot chillies
10g allspice berries
10g mustard seed
1.15litres distilled malt vinegar
450g granulated sugar
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1) Wash, stone and roughly chop the plums. Place in a large pan with the onions, garlic, raisins, ginger and spices.
2) Pour in 600ml of the vinegar, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the mixture is pulpy, up to an hour.
3) Rub the mixture through a nylon sieve, and place in a clean pan. Add the remaining vinegar, the salt and sugar. Simmer gently for about an hour. The sauce thickens on cooling so don’t over-cook.
4) Pour the sauce into clean, sterilised bottles, and seal with new, vinegar resistant screw top caps. Leave for a couple of months before opening.