Although we've not achieved as much as we'd hoped over at the new allotment (which we took on this time last year) we have enjoyed harvesting fruits from the existing trees and bushes.
Our plum tree gave us a fair crop of juicy sweet fruit.
I'm glad we picked nearly all of them on one day as, when we returned just a few days later to collect any remaining, we found they'd been shrivelled up by brown rot.
I had a hankering to make plum jelly just like my mum makes. When I was growing up, we had plum trees in the back garden, so she'd make some every year.
Pectin or lemon juice (optional)
Note: You won't know how much sugar you need until you've cooked the plums down and strained the juices. For each litre of juice, you'll need a kilo of sugar.
Note: If your plums are a little tart, or you include some slightly unripe ones in the mix, you probably won't need to add extra pectin. However, if all the plums are very ripe, additional pectin may be needed. This can be added in powdered or liquid form, or via lemon juice, which is naturally high in pectin, or you can use jam sugar, which has extra pectin.
- Halve the plums. I find this quick and easy to do by drawing a sharp knife right around each plum and then twisting both halves in opposite directions; the halves come apart easily.
- Place halved plums into a large pan, leaving the skins on and stones in.
- Add just enough water to cover most of the plums. (It's better to be frugal with water and add more during the cooking down process – add too much and your resulting juice will be too thin).
- Cook down the plums until they disintegrate completely. Add more water only if the mixture is looking dry and might catch.
- Pour the cooked pulp into a muslin straining bag or cloth. Either tie closed and hang over a pan or, as I did, place into a colander inside a pan, so that the juices can easily run down. I left mine to strain overnight, with a clean towel loosely covering everything.
- To avoid cloudy jelly, resist the urge to squeeze the pulp to extract extra liquid.
- Discard the pulp (on your compost heap or into your green bin).
- At this stage, if you think your juice may be too watered down, boil to reduce volume.
- Do a pectin test if you think you might need to boost the pectin before making the jelly.
- Measure the juice and put into a large pan, with caster sugar. Use a kilo of sugar per litre of juice, adjusting for your volume of juice.
- If you need to add pectin, add it now (or use jam sugar, which has extra pectin).
- Boil the juice and sugar hard. I use a jam thermometer to make sure I reach 104 °C (219 °F).
- Pour your hot jelly into hot sterilised jars. I sterilise my jars in the oven (and boil the lids at the same time, draining them onto a clean tea towel). Pouring the jelly into the jars while it and they are still hot minimises the risk of the glass cracking from a sudden and extreme change in temperature. Actually, I ask Pete to do the pouring as holding large jugs of very hot liquid scares me!
My finished jelly is a soft set, as I chose not to add any extra pectin.
It's delicious, and has such a gorgeous colour, tinged pink from the skins of the fruit.
I used some recently to glaze a home-made blackberry, raspberry and banana fruit tart. It worked beautifully. And of course, it's lovely on toast or scones. And I bet it'd be nice between two layers of soft sponge cake…