It’s been a phenomenal year for plums here in our part of Suffolk and we’ve been in a race with the wasps to see who can get there first. Luckily, we have so much fruit, there’s plenty left for wildlife of all sorts.
The last to ripen have been the black bullace and damsons. The bullace tree in particular is so laden, the plums are hanging like bunches of grapes. As the jam cupboard is already full, we opted for a chutney and I honestly think it’s one of the best we’ve ever made.
It’s based on my mum’s much-loved recipe for green tomato chutney, but oh my goodness, it is even better with plums. Simultaneously sweet and sharp and fruity, it works just as well with a curry as a home-grown alternative to mango chutney as it does with cheese or cold cuts. I have plans to try it with duck as well, so watch this space.
I’m often asked about substitutions … I think the preserved ginger is fundamental to the recipe, so personally I wouldn’t use powdered ginger or fresh ginger root. You can of course experiment to your heart’s content, but it won’t be the same recipe.
You can however use whatever plums you have available. Although I used black bullace here, I’ve also made this with a mix of Victorias and Opals. It comes out a different colour, tawny rather than dark red, but it is just as good.
Plum and Ginger Chutney
1.8 kg plums, stoned weight
450g cooking apples, cored but not peeled, chunked
680g onions, peeled and chunked
225g preserved stem ginger (the kind that comes in syrup), chopped
1 level tsp cayenne pepper
14g pickling spice, in a spice bag
Small glass of water
450g light soft brown sugar
570ml cider vinegar
Halve and stone the plums and place them in a preserving pan. Finely chop the onions and apples – it’s easiest if you put them into a food processor with the raisins and ginger but don’t over-whizz it as you want some texture.
Add to the pan with the plums and all the remaining ingredients except the vinegar and sugar. Add a small wine glass of water so the mixture doesn’t stick before the juices start flowing, then simmer for one and a half hours, stirring occasionally.
In another pan, dissolve the sugar in the vinegar. Add to the fruit mixture and boil gently until it thickens. This can take some time but don’t rush it or there’s a danger the sugars will burn on the bottom of the pan. Keep going, stirring often, until you can mark a furrow in the chutney with a wooden spoon and can see the bottom of the pan when you drag the spoon through the mixture.
Ladle into warm, sterilised jars, seal and allow to cool before labelling and storing.