One of my Unemployment Resolutions is to use this time for self improvement – rather than a personal chocolate eating competition. I’m trying to snack better, so this morning I opened the final jar of the preserved plums I made in summer 2014.
Last year, walking along Hackney Marshes with a friend, we came across a plum tree. A lot of the fruit had been squashed into the ground under the feet of other people on summer walks, but there were still a huge number of absolutely perfect plums. We didn’t have a plan for the day, and my friend was game, so we spent a few hours collecting the windfall plums, not really knowing what we were going to do with them.
When I was young my mom had an allotment and, since all of the crops tended to come at once, she knew a lot of ways to preserve fresh food – which I’m glad she taught me.
We collected enough fruit to fill 4 large jars (that’s how I’ve managed to keep a supply of them for so long). The joy of these preserved plums is their versatility – the spice makes them great as a winter treat -heated up along side a glass of mulled wine, but in the summer they’re fantastic on ice-cream. I had them with greek yoghurt and a squirt of honey and everything was great.
What you need:
- 2 litres red wine (the quality doesn’t really matter)
- 400g sugar
- 2kg plums
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- Handful whole cloves
- Handful cardamom
- Peel of one orange
- Air tight jars – mason / kilner jars are good, but also jam jars are fine. Sterilise them first to stop and mould appearing.
It’s really simple:
- If you’re using windfall or foraged plums like me, the first step is to make sure they’re totally clean.
- To intensify the flavour put a small pin prick into each of the plums. This allows the flavour of the plums and the syrup to really mix together. (If you’re planning on storing them for a long time it also gives them less chance to explode as they swell up inside the jar – which isn’t dangerous, but ruins them a bit.)
- Put all of the plums into jars – filling them up to the top.
- Put the wine in a pan and heat but don’t boil.
- Add the sugar and spices to the pan and continue heating until the sugar has all dissolved.
- Pour the liquid, spices and orange into the jars and seal while the liquid is still hot.
Put the jars somewhere cool and allow them to infuse for a few weeks. I opened my first jar at Christmas 2014 and have just opened my final one and can promise they only get better with time.