Saucy Plums

There is a season, turn, turn, turn, and right now it’s time to pick bucket loads of plums and deal with them. Most fruits have alternate years of bountifulness, with plum gluts appearing every second year. This year’s pear and apple crops look rather dismal in contrast. There are far too many plums to preserve. Some will be halved and de-stoned, then frozen. Others poached and popped into the freezer, ready for winter puddings such as crumbles, cobblers and charlottes. The first crops matured a few weeks before Christmas. Now the Japanese varieties are at their peak. We planted three different varieties 5 years ago- Formosa, Mariposa and Satsuma; all are sweet, dark-skinned and red fleshed, and all have been carefully netted and kept at picking height. My daughter also handed over most of her crop – 7 kilo to be precise. To date, I have made plum sauce, plum and port topping for a Pavlova, plum Clafoutis, and plum muffins, as well as Baked Plums with Labne, my favourite breakfast dish.

The next lot to ripen, Satsuma.
The next lot to ripen, Satsuma.

To kick off the Sagre delle Prugne, my plum festival, is this simple Chinese style plum sauce. Wonderful with Har Gow dumplings, or smeared on a big fat sausage, used in a Chinese stir fry, or as a substitute for everyday tomato sauce or ketchup. It went quite nicely with this morning’s potato and spring onion cakes.

Bar boiled baby potatoes, grated, lots of spring onions, including the greens, salt, pepper, two eggs, fried in a smear of love oil. With plum sauce.
Breakfast Special. Par boiled baby potatoes, grated, lots of spring onions, including the greens, salt, pepper, two eggs, fried in a smear of olive oil. Served with plum sauce.

Multiply this recipe if you are doing a large batch. My last lot of sauce, based on 5 kilo of plums, required a huge preserving pan, a worthwhile investment.

Chinese plum sauce.

Ingredients

  •  1 kg plums, stoned and halved
  •  1 red onion, finely chopped
  •  1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely grated
  •  1 cup brown sugar
  •  1 cup apple cider vinegar
  •  1/2 cup water
  •  1 tablespoon lemon juice
  •  1 teaspoon salt
  •  1 teaspoon Chinese five spice
  •  1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes

    Plum sauce, batch 1
    Plum sauce, batch 1
  1. Place all ingredients in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, for 30 minutes or until plums collapse.
  2. Use a stick blender to blend until smooth, or put through a moulis, pressing well to extract as much as you can from the last skins. I prefer the texture of the latter method. If you think the sauce needs further thickening and reducing, return to the large saucepan and continue to cook down until slightly thicker.
  3. Pour hot sauce into sterilised bottles. Seal, label and date.
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As you can see from these pics, the sauce drops when it settles so fill to the top of the neck. I have used small sterilised passata jars ( 500 gr)  and am on the lookout for more. A great size for summer preserving.

Past plum recipes on Almost Italian include:

Rustic plum cake,

Lorenza de’Medici’s Fruit Charlotte 

Baked plums with Labne

29 thoughts on “Saucy Plums”

  1. Ay, to have an abundance of plums! I’ve been buying plenty of them this year because they are so sweet! Waiting on sugar plums now (hopefully I haven’t missed them!). Those Mirabelle seeds I planted a couple of years ago have sprung into saplings now. I should try to post one to you when the weather is cooler.

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  2. Fabulous recipe(s) Francesca, both the sauce and the breakfast special. I love the versatility of plums, so many ways to enjoy them. I used to freeze stewed plums into icy poles for my grand daughters, lots of brownie points there…

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  3. Speaking of plums, I know what you’re all thinking, “the very dark purple ones that pick so easily and have sort of turned mushy and uhmmm…” I get so emotional, sob sob, when I can see them right in front of me, sob sob, but can touch. Scream, wail, get out of control

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  4. You’ve made me yearn for spring and summer and for our plum trees to produce again. Last year they had a very small crop, the year before a bumper one. I thought it was the early blossoming and the crazy weather, but now I am hopeful that what you say will apply to us and this year we will get plenty of fruit again!

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    1. We had crazy weather last year too. We didn’t really get a Spring- so winter seemed to drag on until November. This may account for the plum bounty, but doesn’t explain why the pears and apples are ordinary. Winds and blossom factors are important too, as you say. Now, back to that table full of plums!!

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    1. we don’t tend to use the canning method in Australia for jams and sauces. Jams last a few years, sauces and pickles maybe one year. With the sugar and vinegar content, they keep well. So long as the jars and lids are thoroughly sterilised, they are safely preserved. Modern lids have little rubber inner seals. They become completely airtight when put onto hot jars with hot sauces/jams.
      we do use the canning method for whole fruits and vegetables – like plums in jars or tomatoes etc- where there is no sugar used.

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