Once a year I scramble across the roof of our chicken coop to pick a bucket of cherry plums. The tree hangs right over the roof, and conveniently the neighbour’s chicken coop is right next door and the tree hangs over that too … It’s just one little step from our roof to their roof and I do it, cheekily never asking for permission. Up there I’ve got full view of their whole yard, but with my head in a fruit tree I get a bit bold and reckless – I just want to fill my bucket! My six-year-old daughter now wants to join in! (Fruit-focused recklessness carrying on into the next generation.)
This tree came with the house when we bought it. It is quite nondescript, with spindly branches and small leaves; it doesn’t have much wow factor. Before we realised it was a plum we actually thought we might cut it down.
I admit that cherry plums don’t stand up against the many other amazing plums out there, like the angelina with its lovely sweetness and edibility, or the blood plum with its depth of flavour and of course its amazing colour. Only a mother could love the cherry plum. (And, well, my kids love them too, fresh off the tree by the dozen; they have no plum snobbery!)
But a bucket of orangey-red cherry plums is like a bucket of sunshine. In flavour, what they have is a nice tartness. They make a fantastic, dark-amber-coloured jam. The tartness is a little marmalade-esque but not as strong or intense. I just leave the pips in as it’s really not hard to pick out a few pips when you’re spreading the jam.
Lately I’ve been making plum paste, cousin of quince paste. Totally delicious. This time I take out the pips. Other than the task of the pips, making paste is easier than jam as there is no sterilising involved.
There are a few other things I make with our plums and I thought the category was just about fulfilled, but this year I had another idea. I’ve made apricot curd before and imagined that the tang of these plums could be perfect in curd; it might taste a little like lemon curd. So right! It’s amazing how close to lemon curd this plum curd really is, but with an extra layer of fruitiness. And plums are in season right when lemons are scarce.
Other plums would work in this curd too. Imagine what blood plum curd would look like. I’m looking forward to trying that.
about 1 cup stewed plums (with sugar added as you usually would), pips removed after cooking
60 g unsalted butter
extra sugar to taste
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
Puree the stewed plums and put them in a saucepan. Place over low heat and add the butter, stirring until melted. Taste the mixture and add sugar as required (my stewed plums have the minimum sugar, but curd needs more, partly to cut through the rich butter and eggs. I added a few tablespoons of sugar, then tasted and added a little more. The flavour should be like lemon curd – tangy and just sweet enough.)
Once the butter and sugar have been added, remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for a few minutes. Whisk the eggs and egg yolk in a bowl, then whisk in a few tablespoons of the plum mixture to warm the eggs. Now tip the eggs into the saucepan of plums and stir well. Return to low heat. Stir constantly until the mixture has passed the custard stage and become a thick curd (which takes around 5 minutes). Taste again (you can stir in more sugar at the end if you think it still needs it). Leave to cool. If you are not using the curd straight away, you can store it in the refrigerator for a week or so.
Use plum curd to fill a tart or little tartlets (serve or garnish with whipped cream), spread it inside a cake, or have it with pancakes.