Waste not ... Plums Tom Hunt
Plums are an abundant seasonal crop with many varieties worth exploring, among them damson, mirabelle, victoria and greengages. If you find yourself with too many plums, cook them up in a number of simple desserts, from crumble to upsidedown cake. My favourite is also the easiest: griddle plum halves and serve with whipped ricotta. They’re also great in savoury salads, raw or grilled.
If the fruit is very ripe and soft, however, try preserving it in sugar instead. Jams, chutneys and compotes are a fine way to preserve any fruit glut – the sugar protects it – and they keep for ages. Compote is made by boiling whole pieces of fruit in a spiced sugar syrup; it can then be served as a pudding, or with yoghurt and granola for breakfast. Jam, on the other hand, is made by boiling fruit in its own juices with sugar and pectin, until it gels.
Plum kernels, like other soft fruits, have a delicious, bitter almond flavour. But beware: they contain the compound amygdalin, which breaks down into the poison hydrogen cyanide when ingested. That said, according to the Food Safety Hazard Guidebook (on the Royal Society of Chemistry website), hydrogen cyanide is not heat stable, so cannot survive cooking.
In a small saucepan, bring 330ml water, 75g sugar, one star anise and a strip of citrus peel to a boil. Add about 250g halved and stoned plums and simmer gently for three minutes. Remove from the heat and store in a sterilised jar. (The same treatment can also be applied to other fruits.)