Summertime Preserving

Apologies for the neglect of my blog for the past little while.  Writing recipes books has been quite time consuming, but now as the summer produce starts to roll in the door and pile up on the benches, it is high time I returned to the blog with renewed vigour.

Mind you, it is  not that there has been no preserving happening over winter and spring.  It is a great time to make jams and pickles from produce you may have stored in the freezer – raspberry or blackberry jam for instance, and frozen tomatoes, red or green, make excellent pickle.

Yesterday I was given a whole large bucketful of cherry plums.  They are delight to behold – deep red, organically grown on a friend’s tree.  Now I could have preserved them by the waterbath or Fowlers method.  This is great, but when first preserved, the skins are mightily bitter, even if a heavy syrup is used.  This improves over time, but as I still have many on my shelves from last year, I’ve decided to make jam out of a goodly number of them.  The jam is delicious – the skin in this case works for the product – it cuts through the sweetness of the sugar.  The recipe is to follow.

I stewed a few, which I will sweeten, sieve out the pips, the return to the boil and thicken with a couple of teaspoonfuls of cornflour mixed to a paste with a tablespoon of cold water (stir into the boiling mixture and simmer 2 minutes).  The flavour is astounding.  I like to use this mixture to fill little sweet tart cases, then top with a spoonful or meringue mixture and bake at 140C for about 10  minutes.  It is a perfect combination of crisp buttery sweet crust, a hint of tartness from the fruit, and then the crisp shell and soft meringue of the topping.  If anyone would like the entire recipe that includes the pastry and meringue, let me know.

With those that remained I decided to make into sparkling cherry plum- a non-alcoholic fizzy fruit drink, entirely free of chemical additives – a huge advantage over store bought soft drinks.  It is so simple to make, you will not believe it.  It can be made with yellow cherry plums, still tstes amazing, but the colour is better when made with the red variety.  So here are the recipes for both the jam and the champagne.

Cherry Plum Jam

 1kg cherry plums

¼ cup water

Juice ½ lemon, optional

750g sugar

 Place the cherry plums, water and lemon juice in a saucepan and bring to the boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until the plums are soft.

 You will note that I’ve not said to remove the stones.  This is for 2 reasons – firstly, it takes forever and secondly because the pips add valuable pectin, the substance that helps to make jam set well.  Mind you, you don’t want them in your jam once it’s made, so I simply press the mixture once the fruit is soft, through a colander.

 Return the mixture to the heat, add the sugar and bring to the boil, stirring.  Boil briskly for 20 minutes, by which stage it should have reached setting point.  If you want to check for this, take out a couple of teaspoonfuls of the mixture and put it on a cold saucer.   Once the jam is cold, run your finger through it if it wrinkles, then the jam should set.

 The jam should be poured into clean sterilised jars (as full as possible) and sealed with a lid immediately.

 To sterilise jars, wash and rinse, then place in the oven turned to 100°C.  When the oven has reached temperature, the jars will be sterilised.  You can store them in the oven until they are cool enough to handle.  The lids can be boiled for 2 minutes, or more easily, put on the jam when it’s hot and invert the jar briefly – the hot jam will sterilise them.

Sparkling Cherry Plum

 875g sugar

4 cups boiling water

14 cups cold water

11 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 lemon, chopped

875g cherry plums

 Place the sugar in a food safe bucket and add the boiling water, then mix to dissolve the sugar.  Add the boiling water.  Mix in the cold water, vinegar and lemon.  Squish the plums a bit or cut them in half and add to the bucket.  Stir to combine, then cover the bucket loosely with a tea towel.

 Leave to stand at room temperature for two days.  I then strain it through a colander into another bucket, then the resulting liquid through a kitchen (nylon) sieve.  You can line the sieve with a layer if muslin if you like, but I don’t do this.  Pour into bottles, filling just to the neck of the bottle, and seal immediately.    I use empty PET bottles – you can recycle empty soft drink bottles, or you can purchase new ones from home brewing suppliers quite inexpensively.  (They can be re-used)

16 thoughts on “Summertime Preserving

  1. Sarah says:

    Hello Sally. I’m in the UK and have just found a cherry plum tree for the first time – I’m going to try some of your interesting recipes. I love the idea of the cherry plum meringue tarts too if you’d be willing to share your recipe? Sarah

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    • Sally Wise says:

      Hi Sarah – apologies for the delay. Here is the recipe. I envy you the cherry plum tree. It is bitterly cold here in Tasmania today, the wind icy. My poor husband is outside on his day off busy building me an outdoor bread oven.

      Cherry Plum Meringue Tartlets

      For the Pastry
      125g butter
      125g sugar
      1 egg
      250g plain flour

      For the Filling
      1½ cups stewed, sweetened cherry plums (minus pips)
      3 teaspoons cornflour (or custard powder) mixed to a paste with a little cold water (about 1 tablespoon)

      For the meringue topping
      4 egg whites
      1½ cups caster sugar
      1 teaspoon white vinegar
      1 teaspoon cornflour
      2 teaspoons boiling water

      Grease 24 x ¼ cup capacity patty tins. (I find the scoop style ones best).

      To make the pastry – cream the butter and sugar, then whisk in the egg yolk and then fold in the flours with a metal spoon until well combined. Wrap in cling film and place in fridge for 30 minutes at least.

      Roll out the pastry thinly on a lightly floured surface. Cut 24 rounds to fit the patty tin bases and sides. Brush with a little beaten egg white and prick each base twice with a fork. Place in fridge for 30 minutes before baking. During this time heat oven to 180°C. Bake tart cases for 8 minutes. If the tart cases have tended to shrink down a bit, press back into shape with your fingertips (protected from the heat by the corner of a tea towel).

      To make the filling, bring the cherry plum mixture to the boil and then thicken with some or all of the cornflour (or custard powder) paste. Cool, then two thirds fill each pastry case.

      To make the meringue topping, place all ingredients into a bowl and beat until thick peaks form. Pipe or spoon meringue mixture over the cherry plum filling.

      Reduce the oven temperature to 120°C and bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until meringue topping is crisp and lightly coloured. Leave for a few minutes in the tins to cool slightly and then remove to a wire rack to col completely.

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    • Sally Wise says:

      Well, I wish I could give you a scientific answer, but I’m not really sure how or why it works – something to do with the wild yeast on the fruit and in the air. To me it’s like magic in a bucket that leads to the fizz developing in the bottle. I love the mystery of it.

      It sort of reminds me of the old Peter, Paul and Mary song that goes “It’s magic and you don’t want to know, just how it’s done it would ruin the show..” (Now THAT shows my age…)

      Regards
      Sally

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  2. Sarah (Wild Feast) says:

    Sally – thank you so much for the recipe – I’ve only just seen it as I forgot to activate the ability to follow your posts! I froze the cherry plums though so I can still make the tarts…I would give you some in return for the recipe if distance was no object! Do you think the wild yeasts would still work and make the cherry plum drink sparkle if the fruit has been frozen? I’m not sure that they would, I could add a pinch of bread yeast but it sometimes makes my fizz taste a bit ‘yeasty’…

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  3. Donna Clark says:

    Hi Sally, We have just started a stall at the farmers market in Hobart every Sunday and we are selling produce we grow from our five acre farm in Macquarie Plains. We found last week that many customers weren’t familiar with what to do with old fashioned fruit like rhubarb, quinces, cherry plums and figs and decided to have a copy of a recipe each week to help them make the best use of our produce. We are taking a heap of cherry plums to the market on Sunday and I would love to take a copy of your cherry plum and meringue tart recipe along. Are you happy with this if we include the web address and refer people back to your blog? Cheers
    Donna

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  4. keri Titley says:

    Hi Sally, I had a recipe of yours that was a cherry vinegar, and have now lost it. Can you please tell me where to get it as it was delicious. I have your Year Un A Bottle book, but nothing there. Hope you can help.

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    • Sally Wise says:

      Hi Keri – all vinegars in Australia, as I understand it are around 5 to 6% acetic acid and all are suitable for preserving. I tend to use a white vinegar – Cornwells is good but I’ve occasionally used even generic label vinegar. In preserving season down here sometimes the shelves at the supermarkets are almost stripped bare of vinegar. Cider vinegar is good too. The vinegar is just the carrier and preserver – it’s the produce that’s preserved that is the star of the show. It’s largely a matter of personal preference, any type will do. Just be a little careful with organic cider vinegar. For the most part it’s great – however, had one person who found that her sparkling fruit drink developed a vinegar mother plant in it.

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    • Sally Wise says:

      It can vary from about three days to about 10. Once it does go fizzy, get it into the fridge straight away. It’s a particularly enthusiastic one.

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