Dozens of plums, hundreds of plums ….

This is Gillian’s orchard. Her apples were more photogenic than her plum trees. Thanks for all this fruit, Gillian!

We don’t seem to eat jam any more.  And gifts of English style chutneys, full of summer and autumn fruits and piquant with the inevitable malt vinegar sit reproachfully at the back of the food cupboard, uneaten and unloved.

There are only so many plum frangipane tarts you can eat, delicious as they are (thanks, Mrs. Portly!) Or plum cakes.

What to do with all these plums we’ve picked?  Open freeze some for winter cakes and puddings?  There, that’s sorted a kilo out.  Now what?

Gathering greengages.

Well, perhaps we could make some chutney after all.  Fired up with chillies and warming spices, they could make a decent addition to a simple winter supper.  Finding a recipe that fits our bill is a task Google was made for.  And here it is, courtesy of a blog new to me that I’ll be following with interest from now on, The Cottage Smallholder.

Hot spiced plum chutney
Author: Fiona Nevile
Prep time: 30 mins
Cook time: 3 hours
Total time: 3 hours 30 mins
  • 1.45 kilos approx of sweet plums
  • 500 ml of white wine vinegar (don’t use malt or white vinegar)
  • 4 chunky cloves of garlic sliced fine
  • 175g of dried apricots chopped
  • 600g of white granulated sugar
  • I lemon cut lengthwise into 8 slices and sliced very fine (ours weighed 100g)
  • 1 large pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of coriander powder
  • 7 red birds eye chillis sliced fine, include the seeds
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of allspice powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 5 juniper berries
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp of dried chillies, chopped fine with seeds
  1. The night before you want to make the chutney, stone the plums and put them in a large heavy bottomed saucepan/preserving pan and add the vinegar. Bring to the boil, cover and leave to cool until the next day.
  2.  Add all the ingredients apart from the sugar and the dried chillies.
  3. Bring slowly to simmering point and add the sugar. Stir constantly until you are certain that the sugar has dissolved.
  4. Bring the chutney back to a good simmer and, after an hour or so, add the dried chillis to taste.
  5. Stir every few minutes to stop the bottom burning (this is a labour of love after all).
  6. Eventually depending on the strength of your simmer, the chutney will start to thicken (more like very thick soup than chutney), stirring every 10-15 minutes or so. Test for thickness by putting a spoonful in the fridge for half an hour and take the saucepan off the stove during the test.
  7. When you have a consistency that you like, very gently reheat the chutney and when it reaches simmering point pour into warm sterilised jars and seal with plastic lined metal lids. Leave for a month to mellow.
  8. N.B. Don’t use cellophane jam pot covers as the vinegar will evaporate and you will be left with relics from a Pharaoh’s tomb after a few months.

We haven’t had the chance to taste the fully matured version.  But this seems to be the business.  Hot, fiery, with complex flavours that aren’t overwhelmed by vinegar.

Chutney bubbling away.

And if you still want another chutney, good old Saint Nigel delivers another spicy treat in his cooking bible, ‘Tender’

Nigel Slater’s hot and sweet plum chutney
. 750g of plums (about 1 1/2 pounds)
. 350g of onions (about 3/4 pound)
. 125g of raisins (about 3/4 cup)
. 250g of light muscovado sugar (1 1/4 cups)
. 1/2 tsp of crushed dried chillies
. 2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
. 150ml of apple cider vinegar (5 1/2 fluid ounces)
. 150ml of malt vinegar (5 1/2 fluid ounces)
. a cinnamon stick broken in two

Halve the plums, discarding the stones. Peel and roughly chop the onions. Put the fruit and the onions into a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally, for about an hour. (DO not forget to stir it occasionally as it may catch if you don’t and you don’t want that to happen!) Pour into hot and sterilized jam jars. Seal. Allow it to mature for at least a couple of weeks.

Now then.  All you have to do is source your plums …. and get cooking.

The backdrop to all our picking activity. Not bad, eh?

37 thoughts on “Dozens of plums, hundreds of plums ….”

  1. We’ve made that Nigel Slater spicy plum chutney several times. If only I could get my hands on the neighbours’ plums, that’s what I would be making! Plus a batch of jam, plus some cakes and crumbles. Jam and chutney are our go-to small gifts for people we don’t know particularly well, e.g. my husband’s work colleagues.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My….. these trees red with plums, what a sight! I could eat plum tart every week, and it was my dad’s favourite sweet tarte. I would freeze them in packages of one gâteau a time and enjoy them all winter. I also love confiture with little sugar but plenty of piece-bits. I just had to use up one jar I bought from the well known brand Bonne Maman which was a real let-down. It was more of what you’d call jam, not a preserve as I’d expected. Now we’re done with a generous helping of organic ‘galettes’ (not crêpes!) and stuffed with that plum confiture, sprinkled with a tiny powdering of organic sugar & cinnamon. They were delicious.
    I also love chutney but it’s true, one doesn’t think about it too much, not here anyway. I used to love it with a very mature stilton…. ooooh, makes me nearly homesick for Devon, and I’m only just back from our week there!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, and yes, let’s not forget about crumbles…. another delicacy! And I LOVE food gifts, I do them all the time. For our Swiss & English friends of course it’s now also French wines, shallots, huile de grains de raisin…. I’ve given up bringing French cheeses to England as I can buy them in every decent shopping centre – I even saw, to my great dismay, 150g Toblerone, OUR SWISS mountain choc (a size I never ever saw anywhere before) for ONE POUND…. when I paid on my last visit in Switzie for 100g sizes CHF 2.- I mean, how’s that even possible???? I felt very cheap with my 100g ‘bars’….


    1. Yes, you can buy pretty decent French cheese in England. I just wish the French would return the compliment. They continue to believe we only have ‘le cheddar’. I now thing of Toblerone as a ‘duty free’ choc, as it’s all you ever see at airports!


  4. Is the Cottage Smallholder up and running again? I do hope so; I used to love it! (Will be trotting off to check in a mo) My fave use for plums is in Pam Corbin’s plum & russet mincemeat which is without doubt the queen of all mincemeats. (River Cottage Handbook No 2 but also here: ) I used to love making preserves. No one to eat them these days!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You do have a point! I never used russets – not easy to get where I lived and indeed at the time the wild plums were ready. But everyday apples worked just as well. It’s the only mincemeat I make now. Come to think of it, it’s the only preserve of any description I make these days. I’m with Malcolm – I adore mince pies. (I do limit myself to Christmas though, since I shouldn’t eat them at all.)


  5. This all sounds very exotic and tantalising to me, as I live in a growing zone that is plum-free. Sadly, no apples either. (Truth is I have never got involved with pickling or preserving anything, unless the one occasion I made candied orange peel counts?!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oooh, home made candied orange peel sounds wonderful. No apples? No plums? Not sure I could tolerate that though! Though oddly, in this apple-growing mecca, half the apples on the shelves are likely to come from South Africa, even at the height of the English season.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yep, lots of apples are grown in South Africa, but not in our region. As in many fruit-exporting countries, hard-done-by residents complain that all the best fruit gets exported. For cooking apples, we have to make do with Granny Smiths as I have never seen proper cooking apples here. I have fond memories of my English grandparents’ homegrown Bramleys and my gran’s homemade apple pies.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah, England’s a changed place. The march of the apple season from Discovery, James Grieve, Laxton Superb, Laxton Supreme, Worcester Pearmain through to Cox and Russet is no more. Cox and Russet it is now, supplemented by Jazz and Pink Lady from South Africa. An ancient industry is almost dead. Oh, we can still do Bramleys though!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. What lovely names! The sad March of so-called progress continues. I recall eating a wonderful (by my standards) Cox Pippin (could that be it?) in Somerset some decades back when Golden Delicious from France were then considered a threat.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. The Cox is properly the Cox’s Orange Pippin, and the test used to be that it was ripe if you could hear the pips rattle inside if you shook it. That no longer works. French Golden Delicious are still rubbish in this country, nice enough in France. Gosh I’m a grumpy old woman.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Our plum tree in AV has more broken branches due to the weight of fruit. We don’t eat jam either so my solution is to eat them to the point of bursting or until they are going over and then leave the rest to the birds, and the puppy!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s not just plums but any fruit on the ground or growing that she can get at and no! It appears to have no effect at all unless you count number of stones/pips which appear later!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for the shout-out! Much appreciated, and that plum chutney recipe looks gorgeous. I’ve just been making tkemali (a savoury Georgian plum sauce) from Olia Hercules new book, Kaukasis. It’s really, really good. Just sayin’ … 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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