Sep 10th, 2004
Our lovely 80 year old neighbor has several fruit trees in her yard, and seems to take great delight in foisting huge boxes of fruit onto her neighbors. Last month it was a big box of figs, and this month an equally large box of Italian plums. These plums are the dark purple, oblong shaped plums that I generally encounter on people's trees rather than in the grocery store. I remember having a couple of these trees growing up. Anwyay, the plums were delicious, but there was no way we could even come close to using them up just by eating them fresh. They were rapidly crossing over to the great plum land of no return, so last Saturday when I was at the library, I grabbed a book called Well Preserved: A Jam-Making Hymnal. The book itself isn't great as a sit down and read it cover to cover cookbook, the recipes are repetitive (cook fruit, add sugar, can) and the hymnal parts fairly trite, but there was a recipe for plum chutney that said it was best made with Italian plums.
All of a sudden visions began dancing in my head of cute little jars of various chutneys and jams and sauces stored away in my basement to be pulled out for Christmas gifts and special dinners. I was hooked. So I spent the rest of the afternoon driving around from store to store looking for canning supplies, only to find them finally in the little market nearest my house. That night I only had time to chop up the plums, but the next morning I got to work making the chutney.
The smell of vinegar cooking is a bit overpowering, especially first thing in the morning, and I burnt my fingers putting jars in my improvised canner (which could only process one jar at a time), but the chutney worked. We had some later in the week with a pork roast and it is very tasty - sweeter than the quick chutneys you make up, more like a tangy jam. In fact, I got so inspired that the next day I bought a flat of peaches and made peach jam in the cutest little half pint jam jars. Sigh of happiness. Now I'm roaming my house thinking of things I can boil and throw in a jar. My mind is truly a scary place sometimes.
I halved the recipe because I had to throw away half my plums as they were going bad, but I would recommend making the whole thing.
Plum ChutneyMakes 10 - 12 eight-ounce jars10 cups chopped purple plums
4 cups cider vinegar
6 cups brown sugar
1 cup chopped preserved ginger
The following dried spices tied up in cheesecloth:
3 cinnamon sticks
8-10 whole cloves
8-10 whole allspice
6 cardamom pods
1 tbsp Chinese chili bean paste
Put the ingredients in a large nonreactive pot. Simmer until thick, approximately 1-2 hours, depending on how ripe the plums are. When thick, pour into hot, sterilized jars. Make sure the covers are on securely but not too tight. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove from water. Tighten covers. Allow to cool. Store in a cool location.
-Joan Hassol, Well Preserved: A Jam Making Hymnal