Blood Plum Fest

I said I wanted some plums to bulk out my teeny tiny crop of damsons. A friend of mine is in the process of selling her house and she offered me some of her last crop of mariposa plums. I offered to help her pick them. Ta da, a lovely time picking, chatting and meeting one of her other friends ensued and I got what turned out to be 9.4kg of plums to take home!

What few fruit my rather young damson tree offered up this year:
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and the mariposa haul on a very different scale:

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My first aim was to make another batch of the spicey plum sauce I like so much. It’s fabulous with sausages and coleslaw and I’m on my last bottle from the previous batch. It’s basically a ketchup type thing made from plums. The recipe I use is from Stephanie Alexander’s “Cooks companion”. Below is what I did, which is a slight change in method. However, her suggestion of stoning the plums first and using a bag for the stones is a much better plan. Passing the stewed fruit through a sieve gives a lovely texture but is a silly amount of work and my arm is hating me for it.

Spiced plum sauce

1.5kg plums (except I scaled the whole thing up for 2kg of plums)
1 1/2 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp whole allspice
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger (I cheated and used the stuff that comes in a jar)
3 cups cider vinegar
4 tiny hot chillis, seeded and chopped

Bring all to boil until plums collapse.
Pass through a sieve to remove stones and spices.
Boil uncovered until it thickens. Note it thickens further on cooling. (aiming for a bit thicker than regular tomato sauce).
Bottle in sterilised vessels.
Wait at least a month before using.

4 bottles of lovely dark plum sauce:

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Erbowle is a medieval plum pudding thing. It is basically plums stewed in wine, passed through a sieve, sweetened with honey and flavoured with salt and spices (I used cinnamon, pepper, clove, nutmeg) all to taste. I made it on my recent trip while helping in the kitchen. It occurred to me a little later that I could make it, bottle it and preserve/”can” it by boiling in a water bath. So, I did, though I left out the rice flour thickening for fear it would catch in the water bath boil. Hopefully that separation will stir back in after opening.

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This is a plum chutney I have made before. I made double the recipe and used half again as much sugar, for some crazy reason. Why? Silly me. Next time I’ll try to stick to recipe. It caught a bit towards the end of cooking. I really hope I didn’t burn it. I couldn’t taste burn, but there are so many other strong flavours. Fingers crossed.

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I also made jam. I tend to think that plums need a bit of help in the flavour department to make a nice jam. I’ve used this this rather excellent spicy recipe before and it was lovely in a rather savoury kind of way, so I cooked it again. It makes a very dark jam because of the wine I suppose.

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All the above recipes were done in 2kg batches. The remaining plums I stewed up with a little wine and sugar and froze in batches to eat with my breakfast. Yum.

Sadly, my arm now hates me. Boo. I have a huge list of things I want to do and all.

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Sweet chilli revised

I thought the tiny bit I’d licked off my fingers was super hot. Last night I had a teaspoon of the sweet chilli sauce from this post in a large bowl of noodle soup, and the resulting mix was almost too hot for me to eat. So today I scooped that sauce out back into a pan and added 2 cups sugar, 2 cups vinegar, and the “apple water”* I had in the freezer. So multiplying the volume by about 3 times. I heated that lot slowly to melt and dissolve everything, brought to the boil for about 35min. Then bottled it. So now I have more volume and it’s still very spicy hot. This time the chilli solids have floated, despite resting the hot mix for five minutes before bottling. As I intend to eat this myself rather than giving as a pretty gift, that’s not a huge problem. The plain red syrup is still the business.

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*apple water= one granny smith apple roughly chopped and boiled in just enough water to cover. Strain and reserve the liquid (~200ml). I’d done this to add pectin to the strawberry jam I made recently. However, I was working with pears at the same time, and generated 3 pears worth of skin peelings and cores, which I boiled up similarly to add to the jam. I was pleased to find something to use up the apple water in and retrieve my freezer pot. The chilli sauce recipes I’ve seen that use a lower proportion of chilli to sugar/vinegar, also add cornflower, which I wasn’t keen to use, so I wondered if the apple water would substitute.

Sweet Chilli Sauce

This post is as much for my reference as anything. I have made this before but years ago and I can’t find any notes. So I’m starting again to find a preferred recipe. I used this recipe as a base, but of course without the garlic. If you don’t have a problem with garlic, you probably wouldn’t want to bother making this, unless perhaps you have a glut of home grown chillis? I love sweet chilli sauce but haven’t found a commercial brand without garlic, so I make my own.

I did 1/3 quantity because that matched the chillis I had. I took all the frozen red chilli I had in left in the freezer, they had been there a long time anyway. Plus I bought three of the milder long ones, two of which I froze overnight to make deseeding easier. Below is a pic of them all on an aluminium tray to defrost.

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150g red chilli (three large, rest bird’s eye)
1 cup vinegar (I used cider)1 cup white sugar.

(put gloves on) Deseed all but one large chilli. Don’t need to be too fussy because some seeds are expected anyway. Roughly chop them all and combine with about a quarter of the vinegar in a tall bamix jar. Blitz until chopped but not fully pureed.

Put this chilli mix into a small saucepan with the sugar and the rest of the vinegar. Heat slowly to dissolve the sugar, then (with the exhaust fan on high, really) bring to the boil, reduce to simmer for about 30min or until thickened. Bottle. I chose a tall narrow jar this time after spending too much time trying to scrape the very last bits out of the bottle of the previous batch.

I wonder how hot this is? It looks pretty strong. I reckon I could try it with a higher ratio of sauce to chilli next time, some of the other recipes use only a few chillis for the same sugar quantity.

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