Thursday, January 27, 2011

Utilising available resources

One benefit of my current flat is the plum trees in the driveway. There are two standard plum trees, and one that produces the most beautiful greengages. The other tenants completely ignore this perfectly good fruit, merely allowing it to fall and make a mess of the drive. I, on the other hand, make use of as much as I can.

I'd been impatiently waiting for the greengages to ripen, hoping to make some jam with them, but unfortunately the tree has not done well this year: of the comparatively small number of greengages that appeared, every single one either fell before it ripened, or rotted on the branch.

On the other hand, the better of the two plum trees had a bumper crop. With only a kitchen stepstool to help me, I couldn't reach a lot of the fruit, but I easily gathered enough to make a half-recipe of plum sauce (p232).

Initially I thought to stone all the plums before putting them in the pan, but I was losing so much of the flesh doing this (since in small plums, there's almost more stone than flesh) that I just put the plums in whole and trusted I'd be able to pick the stones out later.

In with the plums went some malt vinegar, brown sugar, pepper, ginger, ground cloves and cayenne pepper. I was supposed to add mace as well, but had been unable to get any (Bin Inn usually has it but had run out). A little Googling enlightened me to the fact that nutmeg can be substituted for mace, so I put some of that in instead.

After that, it was just a matter of bringing the mixture to the boil, and letting it bubble away until the plums went pulpy. The skins split quite quickly, and after a fairly short time, the fruit was pulpy enough that it was easily squashed with a wooden spoon.

The instructions were to push the mixture through a colander or sieve, but having experienced this tiresome procedure recently with the peach sauce, I grabbed my food processor instead. I did make use of a colander to fish through the fleshy bits and take out the stones.

I found that there was far too much liquid for the amount of pulp I had. It was probably because, as already mentioned, those small plums don't have much flesh on them. Not wanting to have a watery sauce, I omitted a large amount of the vinegary liquid when I transferred the mixture to the food processor.

A short buzz in the processor soon produced the sort of texture I wanted. I tipped the sauce back into the pot to reheat while I got my bottles ready. After a couple of minutes on the boil, the sauce was ready for bottling. Surprisingly, there was almost exactly the correct amount to fill the four bottles I had prepared, with only about a tablespoon left over.

The sauce has to mature for a few weeks before it can be used, but from what I've tasted, it's very tart - the sort of thing you would use quite sparingly, perhaps to flavour a stirfry or casserole. Well, I'll see how it turns out in a month or two.


  1. so curious how this sauce turned out... do tell!

  2. I've only used it once so far (see sesame chicken). I found it worked quite well in a stir fry, but reckon it has definite potential as a marinade.


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