No doubt about it – it’s the season of the plum here at the moment. Last night a friend in a nearby town rang and asked if I’d like some damson plums – she has a tree full just falling on the ground due to the recent winds. She can’t bear to see then go to waste and nor can I – they make the most flavoursome plum sauce, Worcestershire sauce and dehydrated they are one of the most delicious treats of all time.
So this morning I went to pick the plums, leaving a few on the tree so as not to appear too greedy. They are the best damsons I have seen in many a long year. It’s probably due to the larger amount of rainfall this year, but whatever the reason they are beauties. I’m usually not a big fan of just eating a plum, but these are really something and I’ve eaten a handful already. I’ve included the recipe for plum sauce below (it’s the one from “A Year in a Bottle”).
Last Sunday Stephanie (daughter) and I took a Preserving Summer’s Bounty class at the Agrarian Kitchen. In a barter arrangement we swapped half a bottle of Medlar Liqueur for a boxful of organic greengage plums grown on the property. There is no way to describe a greengage, it is like trying to describe the flavour of quince – totally unique. It is worth a trip to Tasmania at this time of year just to try one.
Yesterday I made some yellow cherry plums into jam. It’s very simple to do (I’ve included this recipe also), and they make a slightly tart, bright yellow jam that is one of my favourites – probably second only to raspberry jam and quince jelly. In case you are tempted to make this with red cherry plums, don’t bother – very ordinary by comparison. You can however use them to make the plum sauce, which will as a consequence be a little more tart. You can add a little extra sugar (about 1 cup more) to counteract this if you like.
Speaking of which, I noticed while picking the plums that their quince tree had several windfalls underneath it. I was told to help myself, so of course I did so and now can make a small batch of quince jelly – a foretaste of autumn to come.
I hope to still get some blood plums – they make a deep scarlet jelly that I like to use in gravies and baking, such as jam drop biscuits or substituted for raspberry jam in raspberry shortcake. I will provide these recipes should anyone want them.
However, for now, here are the recipes for plum sauce and yellow cherry plum jam. By the way, I add the plum sauce to gravies, jus, meatballs, rissoles, meat loaves and casserole type dishes for a real flavour boost.
6 cups cider vinegar
500g onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
3 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon grated green ginger
3 teaspoons ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
1 teaspoon mustard powder
Juice 1 lemon
Place all ingredients in a large saucepan and stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is boiling. Continue to boil 2 hours or until the mixture is thick, stirring often.
Strain through a colander, food mill or coarse sieve. Bring back to the boil, then pour into warm sterilised bottles and seal immediately.
Yellow Cherry Plum Jam
1kg yellow 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.