Choose plums of the same size and ripeness, and as always with preserving, make sure the jars are scrupulously clean and sterilised.
A one-litre jar holds about 750g whole plums plus 350ml liquid or about 900g stoned plums (weighed before stoning) plus 200ml liquid. If you are using 500ml jars you will have to allow for extra liquid (i.e. more than half the amount of a one-litre jar).
Prep time: 10 minutes | Cooking time: 50 minutes to 1 hour
Two one-litre jars
- 750ml fruity red wine
- 200g sugar
- 1 star anise, cracked in half
- 1 vanilla pod, halved
- 1.5kg whole plums (or 1.8kg if you plan to halve them)
- Heat the wine, sugar, star anise and vanilla pod gently until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and simmer for a minute. Leave to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 150C/130C fan/Gas 2.
- Halve the fruit and remove the stones if you prefer, or leave it whole. Pack the fruit into preserving jars (the screw-cap type), including a piece of the star anise and vanilla pod in each jar. Fill the jar with the cooled syrup. Tap the sides of the jar to get rid of any air bubbles.
- Cover the jars with the lids loosely screwed on (screw them until you meet resistance, then turn back a quarter turn), or with spring clip jars close them fully. Stand them in a roasting tin lined with a thick layer of newspaper, to absorb the drips – there will be plenty. Bake the jars for 50 minutes (60 minutes for jars two litres or larger). Remove from the oven and tighten lids. Use oven gloves (spring clip jars will not need tightening). Leave to cool.
- The next day, unscrew the band (for Kilner-type screw jars) or undo the spring clip – the flat lid should remain attached – it shouldn’t budge even when the jar is tipped. For regular lids, the centre should have popped down, so that when you press it there is no flex. It will then pop up when you open the jar.
- Store in a cupboard. They should keep easily six months, and for up to a month in the fridge once opened.
Bottled greengages in muscatel
Follow the plum method above, but use 60g sugar and 375ml sweet muscatel wine for 1.8kg greengages (leave out the star anise and vanilla).
Halve the greengages, keeping the stones to one side, and pack as above. Cover with syrup so they don’t go brown (top up with a little water if necessary), then smash open some stones and remove the “almonds” inside. Push a few into the jars with a clean knife. Process as above.