February 10th, 2023


It’s been the strangest of summers in the vegetable garden – i.e. tomatoes only just ripening now – but the fruit trees have been more than happy with the extra rain and warmth (I appreciate this may not be the case up north this year). Almost all of our fruit has been early to date. I imagine this is thanks to the warmth in November for good-sized fruit set early in the season.

The white-fleshed Wiggins peach and greengages were a good 10 days early. Greengage has a tendency to split if it rains on ripening, which happened this year. The fruit was stripped from the tree quick-smart and straight into the pot to make the sweetest plum compote – no sugar required. This is one of my favourite ways to prepare fleshy stone and pip fruit into jars for preserving, you can find my simple technique in my latest cookbook (see the apple sauce recipe), or join one of my preserving workshops this term – find dates and details HERE.

Last weekend I processed a large box of black doris plums from my Dad’s garden. Half were made into roast plum jam, the others halved, packed into Agee jars, covered with a light syrup, and heat processed using the water bath method – I shared the basics here. It feels good to see the preserves shelf begin to fill up. Now I just need all those green tomatoes in the garden to ripen.

Let’s talk about plum varieties.

Not all plums are created equal and there is a clear distinction between the juicy ones best for eating raw, such as Luisa or Santa Rosa, and the more fleshy plums that can be used in cooking. The best cooking plums ripen at the height of summer and into autumn. They are firm-fleshed, even when fully ripe, and not overly juicy so won’t contribute, for example, to a soggy cake crumb once cooked.

My top choice for cooking is zwetschgen, prune plums. Closely followed by greengage, although these don’t lend the vibrant plum colour, they more than deliver on sweet taste. Black doris and omega plums are also ripe about now (depending on your location), and are another slightly tarter option for cooking with.

In the recipe below I share a cooling treat for these hot and humid summer afternoons + check out the following recipes from the archives. 

More Plum recipes:

Plum, Rosemary & Gin Sorbet

Gin is well and truly the drink of the moment. With many boutique distilleries opening around the country (and the world). Delightfully herbaceous, it pairs well with plum and woody herbs. The booze is optional, but it does reduce the formation of ice crystals, resulting in a smooth-textured sorbet. Or do as I do, and use one of the fabulous non-alcoholic gins now available.  See above for plum variety suggestions.
Servings 6
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Freezing time 6 hours


  • 600 g firm-fleshed plums (see above), quartered, and stones removed
  • ½ cup 100g sugar
  • ½ cup 125ml water
  • Sprig of rosemary or thyme
  • Pinch of salt
  • Juice of 1 lemon, about 3 tbsp
  • 3 tbsp good-quality gin or vodka (optional)


  • Place the plum pieces, sugar, water, herbs, and salt into a saucepan. Cover, bring to a simmer, and cook for 10-15 minutes until the plums are tender. Remove from the heat, discard the herb sprig, and use an immersion blender to puree (or cool and puree in a blender or food processor).
  • Pour into a freezer-safe bowl or tin and cool completely.
  • Once cooled, stir through the lemon juice and gin, cover the bowl or tin, and place in the freezer.
  • Freeze for one hour then remove and use a fork to whisk and break up the ice crystals.
  • Return to the freezer for another hour, repeating this hourly mixing two more times.
  • Freeze for another 3-4 hours before serving. Remove the bowl or tin from the freezer 10-15 minutes before serving to soften for scooping. Will keep for up to a month in the freezer.


If you have an ice cream maker you can certainly use it to churn the sorbet. Chill the plum puree well first then churn for 20-25 minutes or as instructed in the maker manual. And don't forget to put the ice cream maker bowl in the freezer well in advance - speaking from experience here!


My new cookbook The Homemade Table is now available at bookstores around Aotearoa NZ, plus order signed copies HERE

(Note: I am not sending to Australia or overseas at this time – books can be ordered HERE).

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