For me, the autumn is all about creating warm flavours, cooking comfort food eaten in front of a roaring fire, and reveling in an autumnal chill that's cold enough to hoar your breath but not yet cold enough to take it away.
So we make chutneys now, turning a glut of fruit into something delicious that can be stored throughout the hunger gap. If the spring and summer are all about delicacy and freshness, then autumn and winter are about dense, rich flavours that pack a calorific punch – and few recipes punch above their weight like this one for plum chutney.
As with all jams and chutneys you must use fresh, ripe fruit for the very best results. I don’t know when it became common to consign your over-ripe, bruised fruit to the preserving pan, but if you do you’ll only ever get second-rate preserves.
1. Sterilize your jars. Place the empty, clean jars on a baking sheet or roasting tin. Carefully place in a hot oven (130°C OR 275°F) for twenty minutes. After twenty minutes, turn the oven off and leave them to cool slightly.
2. Halve and stone the plums. Place in a large saucepan with all the ingredients except the sugar and salt. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes until soft.
3. Add the sugar and salt. Bring to the boil again, stirring continuously until the sugar has dissolved. Simmer for 40-50 minutes.
4. It’s ready when it is thick and pulpy.
5. Pour into the still warm jars and put the lid on, tightening firmly. As it cools, the metal lid should pop down; any that don’t should be kept in the fridge and used first as they haven’t sealed properly.
6. The rest of the jars will keep for six months in a cool, dark place, but leave it for at least a month before eating to let the flavours merge and develop properly. Like all the best things in life, it’s worth waiting for.
This recipe calls for only a small quantity of grated fresh ginger. To avoid any waste, you can freeze what’s left: just peel the root ginger, wrap it in foil, and freeze the whole thing. When you next need ginger, you can then grate the amount you need while it’s still frozen, popping the remainder back in the freezer until you need it again.
See our preserves section for more great ways to preserve fruit and vegetables, or try our recipes for plum jam, spiced pickled plums and damson cheese.