I love this time of year. The weather is warm, the tress and green and dotted around the countryside there is always something growing. We’ve had strawberries and blackcurrants and this month is time for ripe juicy plums.
A short walk from my house is a little woodland lane which is lined on either side with wild self set plum trees. Walking along it recently I spotted there were three trees whose plums were ready and ripe for the picking. I always carry a bag of some sort with me for just such instantaneous-food-gathering occasions and within a few minutes I had gathered a good couple of kilos of red purple plums.
I’m not sure what variety they were as some were glossy red, others a dusky purple, some were teeny tiny while others were more substantial. There was no way I would be able to eat this many plums myself so I decided to turn them into a spiced plum and apple chutney.
I love making jams and chutneys, they allow you to capture and preserve the flavour of the fruits/veg to be enjoyed later in the year once the weather has turned dark and gloomy. Opening a new jar provides a little taste of summer and can be enjoyed for months afterwards.
This particular chutney has a slightly spiced edge which goes wonderfully with strong cheese or a slice on onion pie. Apparently it’s also good with meats too – although I can’t speak from personal experience in this case. Allow it to mature for a few weeks before opening by which time the vinegar twang will have settled down and the flavours will have mingled and developed. I plan to save a couple of jars back and give them away as Christmas gifts later in the year. A great way to use up a glut of plums.
Spiced Plum & Apple Chutney
(Recipe adapted from an old Waitrose Food Illustrated Magazine)
1 large Bramley apple
1 tbsp freshly grated root ginger
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 fresh chilli
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
350g light muscavado sugar
400ml apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp sunflower oil
25 grinds freshly milled black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
Start by removing the stones from the plums. I found the easiest way to do this was to simply push down on the top of the plum with my fingers, which splits the plum in half and then allowed me to remove the stone. You don’t need to chop them at all. Place the plums in a bowl to collect any juice while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Peel and finely dice the onion, apple and chilli. You want the onion to be quite small as this will be present in the finished chutney but the apple will turn to mush so this is less important.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onion, fresh ginger, garlic, chilli and spices. Sauté gently for 10 minutes until the onion is soft but not browned.
Add the plums and apple and any fruit juice to the pan. Stir in the salt, pepper, sugar and vinegar and continue to stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Bring the mixture to a simmer, place the lid on and leave to cook for 1½ - 2hours, but stirring often to ensure it doesn’t stick and burn to the base of the pan as it thickens.
Set a timer and stir every 30 minutes for the first hour, then again after 20 minutes. By this time it should be very thick so stir every 5 minutes until its ready.
When ready, the chutney should be thick, sticky and dark red brown in colour. You should be able to draw a spoon over the base of the pan and see the metal underneath without it filling up with chutney immediately.
After the first 1½ hours, place 4-5 clean jam jars and their lids in the oven and heat to 150C to sterilise them. Do not remove them from the oven until you are ready to fill them with chutney.
Once ready, remove the jars from the oven and fill them with the hot chutney. Screw the lids on tightly, using rubber gloves to prevent you burning your hands.
Leave to cool down before labelling and storing in a cool dark place for at least 3 weeks before using. The chutney needs time to mature and mellow before eating. If eaten straight away the vinegar will be quite harsh. Keeps well for up to 18months.
Makes 4-5 jars.