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, Polenta & Poppy Seed Cake – a popular recipe I shared a few years back.
- Low-Sugar Omega Plum Jam
- Plum & Honey Frangipane Tart – a recipe I wrote for Stuff publications.
- Homemade Plum & Tomato Sauce
Plum, Rosemary & Gin Sorbet
- 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.
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).