A glut of plums!

What to do with all the plums? It doesn’t happen every year, for the last two years, there have been none or very few, and if there isn’t enough sun, the plums are tasteless. But this year, I’ve had more than I can handle and have been given some lovely greengages too. Of course there are many types of plums and all colours, locally, I can scrump for damsons, mirabelles, greengages and in my garden, plump purple plums.

I remember the notices that appeared in the German cake and bread shop windows announcing the arrival of the first plums and the huge trays of the fresh Pflaumenkuchen also known as Zwetschgenkuchen, sitting proudly, straight from the oven, behind the shop windows. Usually made with Zwetschgen plums, the best ones for baking, as they are dense and don’t lose their shape or dissolve. They are very difficult to find in the UK, but I was able to buy them at a Polish shop in London many years ago, so with all the Polish people there now, they may be easier to find. They are not the same as Damsons, but Damsons would be fine and I love the way the red colour from their skins seeps into the surrounding cake.

The first thing to make is microwave jam, it cooks so quickly that the colour isn’t lost and especially with the greengages, it’s a joy to see the jam stay a lovely bright green instead of a sludgy brown. I do use a lot less sugar, so these quick jams won’t keep for long unless I put the jars in the freezer, in which case, I don’t fill them too full. Apart from the greengage jam, I made yellow mirabelle and another one with reddish purple plums which was a beautiful rosy red colour when cooked.

Since the kids were small, I’ve been making a Finnish fruit pudding cake using whichever fruit is in season, so at the moment, it’s plums. I have modified it over the years with either a light cheese topping or a walnut crumble one, and to suit the size of tin I use. I tend to make a quantity of the walnut topping and keep the surplus in a jar ready for the next cake. The beauty of this all-in-one recipe is that it is so quick to make that it can be rustled up if unexpected guests arrive. It’s much nicer fresh, straight from the oven, well, warm rather than too hot, or cold.

I do like chutneys and spicy sauces and have a small repertoire which I make regularly, including mango, Indian pumpkin and Chinese plum sauce, the recipe for which was published in a Telegraph book some years ago and they paid me £25 for the privilege, sadly with all the blogging, those days are long gone. The sauce is good with many dishes, such as sausages, cheese and curries and of course duck.
Plum cake
Also known as rahka-luumukakku, a Finnish recipe, traditionally made with the cheese topping. I found this in a booklet from the National Childbirth Trust at least 30 years ago. It’s so quick and easy and can be varied with different fruit. Make double and freeze after baking. Reheats well.
Make in 1 large silicone flan case – 28 cms. Or 2 smaller ones – 22cms. Or a springform cake tin for a deeper cake.
Heat oven to 180C

Crumble topping
• ½ cup SR Flour
• ½ cup muscovado Brown Sugar
• 50 gms Butter
• Water or flour for mixing.
• 50gms Chopped Walnuts, if using plums, flaked almonds can be used with apples or substitute some oats for flour, or ground almonds for flour if using raspberries. Cinnamon is good with apples.

Mix butter and flour with fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add sugar and chopped nuts. Put in fridge while you prepare the rest.

Alternative Topping
• 150gms Low fat cheese, fromage frais or quark, or yoghurt
• 1 Egg
• 100mls Cream
• 2 table spoons Vanilla Sugar

Cake Base
• 200gms Butter
• ½ cup Caster sugar
• 2 Eggs
• 1 cup Plain flour
• 2 level tsps Baking powder

Fruit layer
Enough fruit to cover the cake base. Plums – halved and stoned; apples – peeled, cored and sliced into 1/8ths. Peaches stoned and sliced into quarters. Rhubarb – cut into 3 cms chunks.
Make topping first then prepare fruit, making sure it covers the base of the flan tin.
Put all the ingredients for the cake base in the mixer and whiz it.
Spread the base mixture in the bottom of the greased flan tin.
Arrange the fruit on the top, plums skin side down.
Sprinkle the crumble on the top. You don’t have to be exact about this. Or pour the cream topping on.
Bake for 40 minutes or until you can smell the fruit and it looks as if it’s bubbling a little and the edge of the cake is golden brown.
Serve with crème fraiche or Greek yoghurt.
Delicious and very moreish.

Microwave Plum Jam.

Put some water in the empty jam jar and heat in the microwave for 2 or 3 minutes to sterilise. To sterilise the lid, boil it for a minute or so in a saucepan.

Take 375 gms of plums – stone and cut into quarters, or halves if damsons or mirabelles.
Put into a large pyrex dish and sprinkle on 50 gms caster sugar.
Cover tightly with cling film.
Cook on high for 7 minutes.
Pierce film and remove, being careful not to scald yourself.
Stir well, scraping any sugar from the bottom of the dish.
Cook uncovered for 3 minutes.
Pour in to the jar, put the lid on and leave to cool.
Makes 1 jar of beautifully coloured, fresh tasting jam with a low sugar content, therefore, it doesn’t keep for too long and must be refrigerated or frozen, so, don’t be tempted to make too much in one go using this method.
Keep in the fridge and eat as usual, but is also excellent with yoghurt.

For 750gms of plums – use 150gms caster sugar and cook for 10 mins and 3 mins. Makes 2 Bonne Maman red top jars.

Chinese Spiced Plum Sauce.
Great for using up damaged plums.

2 kgs plums, stoned & quartered.
4 apples peeled, cored, and cut into chunks.
1 onion, peeled chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled chopped
750 mls white wine vinegar
500 gms white sugar
500 gms muscovado sugar
2 cms piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
2 – 6 chillies, chopped or leave whole and remove after cooking.
2 tsps Chinese 5 spice mixture.
1 stick cinnamon
1 star anise

Makes about 5 jars.

Put everything in a large pan.
Cook for 1½ hours and remove the cinnamon and star anise.
Liquidise with chillies if a spicier sauce is preferred.
Delicious with any cooked meat, hot or cold.
Also great with roast duck and in duck pancakes.

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