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
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
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)