Tuesday, 3 September 2013

First plum harvest of the year

Plum Harvest
 J got the step ladders out and picked our first haul for the year. These will keep coming now for up to another 6 weeks so I need to be prepared to deal with them. I would rather not leave good food rotting on the ground.

No preserving book!
I hunted all over the house for my favourite 'how to store food' book that has completely disappeared, no luck. For this first batch of plums I fancied trying bottling again. I tried this the first year we moved here and sort of did okay... and then the jars sat in the cupboard for two years. There is no point in preserving food that isn't going to get eaten. When we did get around to them though they were lovely, all the sugar had soaked into the fruit and the syrup was rich with the aroma of plums.


So what do you do with a jar of bottled plums? Online recipes always suggest to pour on ice cream, personally that doesn't appeal to me. But they also work well in casseroles, steam puddings and bread puddings. They would also make a great base for a savoury fruity sauce. To be honest I think that they may well end up chucked into just about anything I'm cooking!

I tried searching the internet for instructions, but there are so many conflicting recipes out there that I finally raided my recipe books and found some straight forward instructions in the preserving section of my old 'Good Food Secrets of Success' book.
Plums in syrup solution
I always find quantities the awkward bit and to be honest it can put me off preserving. This time I took my deepest pan and tested how many jars will fit in at a time (7). I measured how many plums per jar and added a few extra for shrinkage... this worked out to be approx. 350g of fruit per jar. Multiplied by 7 this filled my cooking pot, a useful but simple measure for next time.
The seven jars went into the oven for sterilising and their lids (plastic coated) into a pan of boiling water.
The sugar solution was made from 2 pints of water and 450g of sugar (I crossed my fingers that it would be enough, it was). This was heated until it was boiling and all the sugar dissolved.
I had read many instructions online that insist on cooking the plums for a few minutes first so they went into the hot syrup after a quick wash. I was going to boil them for one minute but it took so long for the pan to heat up again that I gave up, I didn't really want them stewed but I think that's what they are! Next time they will go straight into the jars and I'll just pour the syrup over. 
Completed jars.
Lids were put on, loosely. The jars were placed into my big pan with water half way up their sides and left on the heat for half an hour. When they came out the lids were twisted on tightly.

Bread and butter pudding with plums
Unfortunately the lid popped off one jar whilst they were simmering in the pot so half the contents went into a bread and butter pudding (thanks to a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall cookbook for inspiration, I skipped the cream and just used milk in the custard). The other half went into the left over casserole that I was reheating. I am pleased to say that my sons didn't even mention the fruity addition in the savoury meal.

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