Grow forage cook: spicy plum chutney

Spicy plum chutney recipe | Wolves in London
Spicy plum chutney: the harbinger of autumn…

There’s been a definite chill in the air this week and I have to keep reminding myself that, yes, it is still officially August and still officially summer. For one more week at least…

I’m sure I can feel the days shortening imperceptibly each evening and my summer duvet is wrapped more tightly around me each night.

I’m trying not to moan because, after all, we did have a glorious July, but there is something a little depressing about an August that already feels as if autumn has hit.

But, on the plus side, the arrival of autumn a little early this year means the early arrival of harvest time, hurrah!

And what a bumper harvest it has been so far.

It seems to have been an especially good year for plums. My fellow Grow Forage Cooker, Laura (of Circle of Pine Trees) shared three glorious looking plum recipes last week from a basket filled to the brim at the local PYO.

This is a selection of seriously delicious looking plum treats: plum clafoutis, plum cake and plum jam. Head over now if you’ve not already seen the delights: a basket of plums.

This week, I’ve got plums in my hands too, hem hem, since our plum tree has had a rather magnificent bounty this year.

Spicy plum chutney recipe | Wolves in London
What a bowl of plums!

So if you, too, have more plums than you know what to do with, here’s another recipe, this one for a spicy plum chutney, that tastes particularly fabulous at Christmas time with cold meats or cheese.

(I know, I know, despite the chilly weather it’s still far too early to think about Christmas, but this chutney is best matured for a few months, so if you make it now you can forget about it all over again until December…)

And if you’re growing, foraging or cooking anything yourself with seasonal ingredients, do please share it with us. Use the hashtag #growforagecook on twitter or instagram and tag either of us (@circleofpines and @wolvesinlondon) or leave us a comment on our blogs to share any photos you’ve taken, recipes you’ve made or blog posts you’ve written.

We’d love to get some inspiration / drool over some delicious photos.

At the end of each month, we’ll share a round up on our blogs of some of our favourites and pin them to our Pinterest board: Grow, forage, cook.

And a huge thank you to everyone who has joined in so far!

And so, on with the plums…

Spicy plum chutney

Spicy plum chutney | Wolves in London
Another, slightly closer up view of the chutney

This makes 5 – 6 jars. You can scale up or down all the ingredients depending on how many plums you have.

Supplies:

  • 1kg of plums
  • 1kg of apples, cored and chopped
  • 400g granulated sugar (I like to use white sugar as the chutney stays a wonderful pink colour, but you can replace with brown if you prefer)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1tbsp chilli flakes (or more or less, as you prefer)
  • fresh ginger, an amount about the size of two thumbs
  • garlic: one bulb, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 350ml of cider vinegar
  • Large heavy bottom saucepan, stockpan or (ideally) jam pan
  • 5-6 jam jars
  • wooden spoon

What to do:

1. First of all, get your jars on to sterilise. You can either put them through a normal wash on the dishwasher, or wash them in soapy water and then put into an oven on a low heat. If you do the latter, put them onto a baking tray and then you can pull the whole thing out at once, rather than handling lots of hot glass jars.

You’re supposed to use new lids every time, or sterilise them in boiling water, but – confession – I just stick the lids through the dishwasher as well…

2. Chop the plums in half, remove the stones and weigh them. Incidentally, this will leave you with genuine brown, wrinkled prune fingers; washing them in a bit of lemon juice helps remove the stains…

Spicy plum chutney recipe | Wolves in London
First, chop your plums…

3. Match the rest of your ingredients to the amount of plums you have, by scaling up or down the ratios. For every kg of plums you want approximately a matching weight in apples, 350ml of vinegar and 400g of sugar. Specific quantities aren’t crucial, so don’t worry too much about matching this exactly. The apples on my trees are only just starting to ripen, so I couldn’t quite match the weight of the plums, but just added what I could… It didn’t matter in the slightest.

4. Core and chop the apples – controversially, I don’t worry about peeling them, since I think the skin softens enough not to be noticeable and I am a rather lazy cook – but if you’d rather peel them, go right ahead.

Spicy plum chutney recipe | Wolves in London
Apples from my trees

5. Stick everything into a big saucepan and bring to the boil.

6. Simmer, stirring every now and again for around 90 minutes, or until the mixture has reduced and become a thick gloopy consistency.

7. Spoon into the jars while still hot and twist the lids onto the top. The lids should depress at the top and you know a seal has been made.

8. Put aside for at least a month if you can, before eating, to let the flavours infuse. This should store well for at least a year…

Delicious with meats or with cheese and biscuits.

Spicy plum chutney recipe | Wolves in London
Plum chutney, cheese and oatcakes. A rather excellent snack, I can attest…

So tell me, what have you been growing / foraging / cooking recently?

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I love me a bit of preserving. Take a look at a few of my other recipes:

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Grow forage cook: morello cherry vodka recipe

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you might know that the wonderfully talented Laura at Circle of Pine Trees is a good friend of mine.

Laura and I met back in our student days at Bristol Uni, both of us studying English Literature and then taking a masters in poetry (otherwise known as wasting a year in a rather enjoyable but completely pointless pursuit…)

It wasn’t over our mutual love of 20th century poetry though, that we really bonded, but through our mutual love of cooking (and perhaps more specifically a love of cakes, now I think about it…)

In the years since (oh, one or two I would guess, if you’re asking, definitely not more than a decade, ahem) that love of cooking has developed for both of us into a love of cooking with natural ingredients; often either home grown or foraged.

So we thought it was high time we got together and collaborated to share some recipes, growing tips and foraging ideas with each other – and any of you dear readers who might be interested.

Here then, as a first installment for our new series Grow, Forage, Cook, is my recipe for morello cherry vodka.

Morello cherry vodka recipe | Wolves in LondonWhen I removed the giant cactus from the front garden a few years back, I planted a morello cherry tree in its place.

Morello cherries are wonderful because they’re rather bitter and don’t taste good until you cook them. In itself, not necessarily a plus point, but it means the birds don’t eat them and you can use every single last one on the tree. This year, the first year I got any fruit, it wasn’t a bumper crop. (The tree is still very young. Barely into adolescence in tree years.) But it was perfectly sized for a batch of morello cherry vodka.

Ingredients:

Morello cherry vodka supplies
All the supplies
  • Morello cherries (or you could use normal sweet cherries and reduce the sugar)
  • A bottle of vodka
  • Granulated sugar — enough to fill about a third of the bottle
  • And then you need a bottle with a seal to store it in

What to do:

1. Cut all the cherries in half. I leave the stones in, which gives a slightly almondy flavour to the vodka as well, but you could take the stones out if that doesn’t sound pleasant.

Homemade morello cherry vodka recipe | Wolves in London
Good enough to eat!

2. Fill your storage bottle a third full with sugar (you can simply re-use the original vodka bottle if it has a screw lid. Just drink remove a little bit of of the vodka first) and then push the cherries in on top.

Homemade morello cherry vodka | Wolves in London
Looks delicious already, I know

3. Pour the vodka over the top until you’ve filled the bottle…

Homemade morello cherry vodka | Wolves in London
You can see the colour of the cherries bleeding into the liquid already

…and then seal the lid and give it a really good shake.

4. Store it in a cupboard and give it a good shake every time you notice it for the first month or so. (Or, if you’re more organised than me, do it once a week to schedule.)

5. If you can, leave it for a year, even better leave it for two years to really infuse together. Once you’re ready to drink it, strain the liquid through a sieve to remove the vodka-soaked cherries.

Getting all Blue Peter on you, here is one I prepared earlier. Two years ago, to be precise:

Homemade morello cherry vodka
It genuinely is that amazing pinky red colour…

Isn’t it a phenomenal colour?!

So, five minutes prep and a mere two years in waiting and you’ve got some cherry vodka.

What to do with it then? you might well ask.

Of course, you can just swig it from the bottle (I did this a few times while I was waiting. Checking that the sugar content was right, naturally, not just having a cheeky glug.)

But the classier option is to use it in a cocktail.

It’s really good in a cherry vodka fizz: one measure vodka, the glass topped up with tonic water. (A vodka tonic by any other name…)

Cherry vodka fizz | Wolves in London
Top with mint and some spare cherries for a truly photogenic drink

Or, for a more boozy / celebratory alternative, you could put a measure of the cherry vodka in a champagne glass and top with champagne.

Or, of course, you could just use it in place of normal vodka in about a million other cocktail recipes and make them a wonderful pink colour.

[My husband just looked over my shoulder and commented that if he couldn’t see the actual items, he would never believe that these were real, so bright are the colours. But yes! I trick you not, this really is the vodka I made and the cherries really are that bright red. Here’s a final shot of them, unedited straight from the camera:

Morello cherries
Morello cherries; one of the fakes-looking fruits in the world?

So go forth, all, and plant a morello cherry tree in your garden!]

Let me know if you have a go, I’d love to hear any other wonderful concoctions you make with it!

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