I genuinely believe that I have the ability to eat more plums than most. I adore them, in every shape and form. I recently celebrated a birthday, and one of my favorite gifts was a bag left in a shoe cubby on our porch of perfectly ripe greengages. The squeals of delight from me were echoed in my daughter, a four year old plum aficionado, particularly fond of the small, pale green variety. They are a welcome respite from the purple and pink abundance that surround us in Queen Anne that we have been devouring for weeks now. Even I can admit to having too much of a good thing. And so … we have been trying to get creative over here!
What do you do with them? In our house, we make chutney. And jelly, and pastilles, and cordial, and cobbler and anything else we can think of. Our neighbor's glut, left to drop to the floor, now stands proudly in jars and bottles and tiny tin boxes, awaiting a time when we have not had enough of plums!
The recipe for Plum Chutney below will keep happily in the fridge for a few weeks (or months if put through a canning process). It is particularly good with strong cheese such as Cheddar, Manchego, or pungent goat cheese, as well as cold meats and pâté, and makes great gifts over the holidays.
Spiced Plum Chutney
We started out with 1kg of plums (including their pits) and cooked them in a large pot over a medium heat with 200ml of water until they turned to mush. We picked out the pits from the soft mess, and then let them continue cooking a little bit more to allow some of the water to evaporate. We then measured out 750g of the plum mush to use for the recipe below. The tiny bit left over was eaten with a little honey and Elleno’s wonderful unsweetened Greek Yoghurt.
750g plums (we used the beautiful dark magenta ones)
1 and ⅓ cups organic unbleached sugar
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ TBSP fresh packed oregano leaves
½ TBSP sea salt flakes
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
½ TBSP coriander seeds
½ TBSP cumin seeds
1 star anis
4 cardamom pods
1 dried chili
1 TBSP fresh picked thyme leaves
zest strips of one orange*
3 bay leaves
1 cup fat yellow sultanas
½ cup dark raisins
* if you don’t have a bar keep style zester you can use a peeler to peel the fine orange skin off the orange (no pith) and then slice into very long thin slivers. You can just use a microplane zester but I like the texture of the larger pieces.
Ensure that you have sterilized jars at the ready – we filled 6 half pint jars and had a little left over to go in a vintage jelly jar in the fridge – it didn’t last long. Warm through the plum mush, vinegar and sugar, then add all the aromatics and spices. Allow to come up to a very gentle simmer, on a low heat to fully meld, and then add the sultanas and raisins. After a few minutes, very carefully taste (so as not to burn your tongue) your mixture. You are looking for a punchy, but not too vinegary tang. Adjust with a little more sugar or vinegar to your preference and then allow to simmer down to a nice thick consistency. The mixture should have a little shine but not be sticky, keep a close eye on it, and stir constantly so that it doesn’t catch and burn on the bottom. Pour into the sterilized jars and tighten the lids. If canning in boiling water ensure the lids aren’t on too tight or the vacuum cannot be created well for the seal.
Laura Leaver is a member of the City Fruit board of directors. In the spirit of preserving Laura is teaching two upcoming classes on quick pickles and canning tomatoes in Seattle; the first in Pike Place on the 4th of August. Check out her website to learn more: www.heirloomsandwoodenspoons.com.