As the nippy Fall air makes its way into New York, I heave a sigh of relief as I sense the urgency of the preserving season winding down. While I truly enjoy putting by the best of each season’s produce, even the most dedicated preserver can get a bit burnt out by the onslaught of summer produce, and I am feeling just a wee bit crispy at the edges. My back is sore, my fingernails are permanently stained red, and I need to hit the stores for more raw sugar, brown sugar, molasses, cider vinegar, white vinegar, bourbon, tequila and lemons. Whew!
The last week in particular has seen my canner in almost constant bubble: peach butter, pirate peaches, peach jam with tequila & chile, tomato chutney, fire roasted tomatoes and the endless pickled eggplant; I labeled and stored about 4 dozen jars yesterday. The easiest by far of the recent spate of preserving, however, has been this one: plums in wine & honey.
This simple little preserve is a riff on Georgeanne Brennan’s classic drunken cherries: just plums, local red wine and honey, simple ingredients that blend & mellow on the shelf to yield a preserve that is greater than the sum of its parts. The softest, ripest plums are puréed to add some body to the wine-honey syrup, the remainder are pitted, sliced and raw-packed into hot jars. Cover them with boiling syrup, process for 10 minutes, et voila! Five pounds of plums disappear, lickety-split, into jars and six pints of goodness sit on your shelves, awaiting the pies, tarts and winner-winnner-chicken-dinners of a long, cold New York winter. Simple deliciousness that even the burnt-out preserver will love!
- 5 lbs plums, divided
- 1 bottle fruity red wine (I used a local claret from Sand Castle Winery)
- 1 cup local honey
- 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar OR red wine vinegar or lemon juice, optional
- pinch sea salt
- Prepare canners, jars & lids.
- Pick out about 1 and 1/4 lbs of the ripest, softest plums: set aside. Rinse the remaining plums, stem, pit and slice into 1/4-inch slices. Pour the wine into a large bowl and store the sliced plums there until you are ready to can (to prevent browning).
- Rinse, pit and coarsely chop the original 1 and 1/4 lbs plums. Add to a food processor with about 1/4 cup of the wine and process until puréed. Transfer purée to a medium (4-quart) stockpot; add honey. Strain the sliced plums from the wine and add wine to the stockpot. Bring to a boil, stirring until honey dissolves, reduce heat and boil gently until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Taste syrup: if it needs a bit of oomph, add the optional vinegar or lemon juice now.
- Fill hot jars with plum slices, tamping the jar as you go but not packing too tightly, to about 3/4-inch headspace. Once plum-wine-honey syrup is slightly thickened, ladle hot syrup over plums to a generous 1/2-inch headspace. Carefully bubble jars, adjust headspace, wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Alllow to rest in the hot canner water for 10 minutes after the processing time (to prevent siphoning).
Yields about 6 pints.
- You can use this preserve to make a pie, similar to Drunken Cherry Pie, although the texture will be somewhat more runny due to the lack of sugar as thickener.
- Pour over chicken breasts, with perhaps a touch extra vinegar and/or some fresh herbs, for a quick & easy baked chicken dish.
- I know a certain Hip Girl who enjoyed hers over ice cream!
Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year. Allow to age on the shelf for at least 1 month before using.
Late summer into early Fall.