Pig For Victory No.11: Cherry Plum Jam

Autumn is a foragers Christmas, it is a time when nature’s larder is open and ready for the plundering. In my neck of the woods We are fortunate to have a number of seasonal treats available to us, but the greatest bounty of all is the Cherry Plum.

The cherry plum is a common sight in the hedgerows of Britain. It is not strictly a wild edible, because it was cultivated for its fruit before humans discovered other more rewarding fruit trees.

The taste of Cherry Plum is a mixture of cherries and plums, hence the name. However we would say that they have a similar texture and sweetness to greengages. You can eat them raw or in a crumble, but the best way to use them in our opinion is in jam where they really come into their own and taste amazing.

There are a number of websites that can help you identify this fruit. Remember though as always if you are not 110% sure what is on that bush or tree is edible for humans, do not pick, it’s really not worth the risk. If you can’t get hold of cherry plums you can make this recipe using cultivated plums widely available from green grocers and supermarkets.

You will need
  • 2kg of ripe cherry plums or cultivated plums
  • 1/2 pint of water
  • 1.5kg of white sugar (or slightly more if you want it sweeter)
  • The juice of a lemon if needed 
  • Jars 
  • Waxed paper discs 
How to make it
Sterilise your jars so they’re ready to go: wash them in hot soapy water then rinse them in very hot water, before putting them in a pre-heated oven (to 160C/325F/Gas mark 3) for 15 minutes. Lids should also be washed in very hot water.

Rinse the fruit and crush it with your hands until the skin pops open. If the plums are really ripe, the stone should easily pop out, if not, just break the flesh and it’ll pop out easily when you’re boiling them.

Put the squeezed fruit and the 1/2 pint of water in a big, deep, heavy bottomed pan and heat gently for five minutes. If you haven’t already fished out the stones already, pour the mixture through a metal colander.

Continue to heat the mixture, for about 15-20 minutes until it boils down into a delicious bright red mixture. When the fruit is all gooey, the stones have been removed stir in the 1.5kg of preserving sugar. It very quickly changes from letterbox red to a deep shiny maroon. At this point carefully taste-test it to see if it’s sweet enough, add more sugar if necessary. Keep stirring the sugar until it’s all melted then quickly bring to the boil.

Let it sit on a hard rolling for a good while for another 15/20 minutes until it reaches setting point (do a wrinkle test to check). If it doesn’t seem to be setting, add the juice of a lemon.

Once the jam has hit the wrinkle point, turn off the heat and leave to stand for a minute Ladle the very hot jam into the still warm from the oven jars. Fill your jars to within 2-3 mm of the top (it’ll shrink back a bit as it cools) then it’s best to use something to stop the jam touching the lid, cover with a waxed disc before lidding.

Once you’ve filled and lidded all your jars, leave them to cool overnight. The next morning, check the jam, if it’s still a bit runny, tip all the jam back into your (clean) jam making pan and hard boil it some more and consider adding pectin or lemon juice, until you get a clear wrinkle on testing. Clean and re-sterilise your jars before pouring it out again.