Playing with Cherry Plums

Today the Captain and I are skipping off to celebrate our wedding anniversary by attempting to find our thrill on Bilberry Hill. You know you have been married for twenty-three years when that quite genuinely means finding vast quantities of bilberries. Or even just a few … *sigh*

While we skip forth, I am going to leave you with this very belated post. Belated as I have a horrible feeling that the cherry plums will be past their best by now. Those I found were at the peak of ripeness at the beginning of the month and I suspect their season is short. However, perhaps you will be lucky and find a retarded tree. If not there is always next year. Or simply substitute ordinary wild plums.

I have adapted this recipe from one I found on The Cottage Smallholder’s fabulous blog. Having picked the seven kilos while narrowboating to Droitwich, on top of the previous 5 kilos I picked two days before, I was desperate for suitable recipes.

Fiona’s recipe looked wonderful but, being boat bound, I inevitably did not have all the ingredients. Consequently I had to do a bit of experimenting. Seeing as I was at it, I decided to play around and make a spicy version too as I have a friend, for whom I am doing a birthday hamper, who is a chilli nut. First tastings were definitely favourable and I am very much looking forward to tasting proper, once the period of maturation is over.

The two recipes follow:

Wild Yellow Cherry Plum Chutney

1.5kg wild yellow cherry plums

500g cooking apples, cored

500g onions, chopped finely

300g dried apricots, chopped into small pieces

200g raisins

225g soft brown sugar

2 large cloves of garlic, crushed

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp salt

1 tsp allspice powder

2 inch piece of root ginger, grated

500ml white wine vinegar

250mls cider vinegar

1 small hot chilli, finely chopped

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

10 black peppercorns

Place cherry plums in a pan and simmer for 20mins in 75mls of the vinegar then leave overnight to cool. The following morning, remove the stones by squeezing them a handful at a time. Next, chop the apples into small pieces and add with all the other ingredients into a large preserving pan and bring slowly to the boil. *Reduce heat and simmer gently for as long as possible – 5 hours if you can – stirring occasionally. My cooker burns too hot to allow me to simmer for this long and the mixture was thickened and ready in about 3 hours. You can tell it is ready when you can draw a wooden spoon across the base of the pan and the chutney stays apart for a few seconds. Pour into sterilised jars and seal. Leave for four weeks before using.

Wild Yellow Cherry Plum & Chilli Chutney

Using the above recipe, take off 4 generous ladles-ful of chutney mixture at the asterisk *, just after all the ingredients have begun to boil. To this add the following:

3 green chillies, finely chopped, with seeds

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 inch piece of root ginger, grated

Bring back to the boil, then simmer very slowly for as long as possible as above. This version will be ready much sooner as the quantity is far less, but it should still be possible to simmer it for about 2 hours. Once thickened, pour into sterilised jars and seal. Leave for four weeks before using.

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