Autumn has officially begun when you start to collect all the gluts of abandoned fruit and veg. and preserve them in some form or other! We, as usual, have had many plums and a few errant courgettes that sort of expanded unnoticed to marrow-size! The tomatoes, as usual, were planted on the late side and were pushed into a shady spot by the need to replant broad beans in their original spot after the snow. So add green tomatoes to the mix and what can you make?
This year, I began with the early cherry plums, making a clear cherry plum jelly to add to stews and casseroles, have with cheese or simply spread on toast, and an infused gin. I borrowed the recipe from The Cottage Smallholder blog, and it’s a case of boiling the fruit half covered in water, then strained overnight. Add a pound of sugar for each pint of juice, simmer gently until setting point is reached.
My next cherry plum adventure is still steeping, as I decided on an infused gin, the recipe of which you can find here. It is, at present, sitting in my garage and being swished around if and when I remember! We’ll see how it turns out nearer Christmas!
On returning from holidays, I couldn’t wait to climb the plum tree and harvest all the scrummy fruit, well, those that hadn’t already been stolen in part by the wasps. As usual, I chose to follow Delia’s advice and turn them into a Windfall Spiced Plum Chutney. I find that the longer you leave this, the more it becomes a pickle, and is more delicious than ever. Another quick and easy way of using up plums is a simple plum jam. For every pound of plums, add a pound of sugar and 1/4 pint of water. Boil until set. I added a little sprinkling of cinnamon too!
Further investigation proved there were overgrown courgettes and green tomatoes to use up too, so for the first time, I tried Hugh F-W and River Cottage’s Glutney. It’s quite similar to the Windfall recipe above, but uses vegetables instead of plums.
Use a kilo of overgrown courgette, or marrow, cooking apples and plums or green tomatoes. Half a kilo of onions, sultanas and soft brown sugar. 3/4 litres of cider of white wine vinegar, topped up to a litre with water, and as many chilli flakes as you dare. Dice all into cm cubes. Make a spice bag to include a few strands of mace, 12 cloves and peppercorns, a teaspoon of coriander seeds, and roughly chopped thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger.
Bring slowly to the boil so the sugar dissolves, then simmer for about three hours, until you can see the bottom of the pan when you drag a wooden spoon through the mixture.
As with all chutneys, jams, etc. make sure you sterilise your jars first. I pour boiling water into each, leave to warm, then pop into a warm oven to dry. I also put the filled jars back into the oven to help seal them.
Now the only thing to do is wait. Most of the above take time to mature, so don’t be tempted to open the chutneys too early – wait and let the flavours mellow, unless, of course, you prefer a sharper taste!