I know I have foraging on the brain but this summer wild plums genuinely seem to be everywhere. You may yourself have noticed the unpleasant splats and stains adorning local pavements and subsequently the soles of your shoes. Instead of treading these abundant wild beauties into your carpet why don’t you turn them into something delicious? Enter plumbrillo.
- Empty jars with a total capacity of 500ml (sterlised the usual way)
- Medium pan. Heavy-bottomed if your pan stash allows (I only have three pans which are somewhat inadequate in the bottom area, however their lack of weightiness has never been an issue for me).
- 1 kg wild plums
- 500g jam/preserving sugar (or 600g regular granulated and some patience, see below)
- 250ml cold water
- Quarter your plums if large, or half if small and remove the stone.
- Smile in the knowledge that the worst is over.
- Put the fruit and water in a pan and bring to the boil.
- Cover and simmer the fruit until it becomes real pulpy, probably around 45 minutes, but don’t bank on it.
- Lid off and sugar in, stir until dissolved.
- Wack up the heat and and let it bubble for approx. 30 mins, until it has thickened up. Stir frequently to avoid burning the bottom. (I find this process is more fun if you let out the occasional cackle or recite ‘hubble bubble etc.’). Info on testing the set can be found below.
- Pour the plumbrillo through a funnel into your jars…carefully.
- Crack out the manchego.
I divide plums into three categories;
- Small and yellow, (e.g mirabelles)
- Small and black, (e.g. bullace)
- Small and red, (e.g. cherry plum)
Basically, label them however you want because it seems to make no difference to the flavour, which entirely depends on the individual tree. Picking wild plums is like a low-budget game of Russian roulette, some fruits dab at your taste buds like a wet sponge, whilst others smack you round the face with lip-pursing astringency. My advice would be find a tree, have a nibble, make a judgement. You should look for fruit that is tart and intensely fruity. Sweetness is not particularly important due to shocking quantities of sugar that you will be adding. If the flavour is bland then just don’t bother. To get that nice red/purple colour for your plumbrillo then select a variety with a dark pigmented skin.
Ripeness: You should aim to pick your plums when they are slightly underipe as the pectin levels will be higher. You can tell when they are underipe because they will be firm to touch and a right pain to stone.
Grungyness: If they look grungy then throw them away.
The gelling agent
Preserving/jam sugar is pectin enriched which will help your batch to set (sometimes faster than you can pour it). Wild plums do have a reasonable level of their own pectin so you can just use the regular granulated stuff, but be prepared to watch the pot boil for longer before a set is achieved, maybe closer to 45 minutes. If you fancy it you can even make your own pectin and save yourself a whopping £1. Massive.
If you want some detailed information on how to test the set of your jam then my unofficial sponsor, Kilner, has guidance.
A note on batch size
Most preserve recipes require multiple kilos of fruit and sugar. They leave you drowning in jam and fearing diabetes. Are the authors of these recipes stock-piling for the apocalypse or something?! My recipe produces 3 large jars of plumbrillo, for those with normal fruit paste needs. Feel free to scale it up.
‘Observe due measure, moderation is best in all things.’
-My Greek of the week, Hesiod