For some reason we didn't spot any cherries this summer. Do the trees take a year off or something? We'd resigned ourselves to the only free fruit being blackberries - as prolific and delicious as ever - when I happened to notice a couple of plum trees dripping ripe fruit onto the pavement.
I summoned the troops and we made a raid. Between us we gathered over 6 lb of plums, without even needing recourse to a ladder. Some were low enough for Toby to pick, although I doubt many of those made it into the boxes! Occasionally a gust of wind brought a shower of purple fruit down on our heads, which he found extremely funny. Once we'd packed the basket of Theo's pushchair as full of plums as we could manage, we set off home to work out what to do with them all.
The great advantage of plum jam is that you don't have to take the stones out first.
450 ml / 15 fl oz water
2.4 kg / 3 lb sugar
knob of butter
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
Put the plums and water in a preserving pan and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, until the fruit is well softened. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved, then add the butter and lemon juice. Bring to a lively boil and boil for 10-15 minutes until setting point is reached.
Take off the heat and skim off the plum stones. Because I hate recipes that say things like this as if it involves a couple of quick flicks of the wrist: be warned. This took me ten minutes of fishing around with a slotted spoon, teaspoon, and potato masher (for breaking up the plums). But you're supposed to leave the jam for ten minutes before potting anyway, so that was OK. When you think you've got all the stones, pour the jam into sterilised jars, cover and leave to cool.
From the recipes I unearthed, it seems that plums and almonds go well together. So... lump of leftover marzipan, half a packet of ground almonds... voila! Plum Bakewell Slice.
60g / 2 oz sugar
125g / 4 oz butter or margarine
190g / 6 oz plain / all-purpose flour
190g / 6 oz marzipan
190g / 6 oz plums
Grease and line an 8" x 12" pan with non-stick baking paper. Rub together sugar, butter and flour to form a crumbly mixture. Tip into the pan and press down firmly. Grate or roll the marzipan (mine was a bit old and dry so it grated well; if it's softer you may find it easier to roll it out to slightly smaller than the pan) and spread over the shortbread base. Halve and stone the plums and arrange on top of the marzipan.
190g / 6 oz butter or margarine
190g / 6 oz sugar
1 tsp almond extract
125g / 4 oz ground almonds
60g / 2 oz plain / all-purpose flour
(or 6 oz ground almonds if you prefer)
Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the almond extract and ground almonds, or almonds and flour. Spoon over the plums and spread out carefully. Bake 40-45 minutes until golden and set.
My ancient copy of Good Housekeeping Cookery Book (revised 1985. Hey, that's younger than me! Not that ancient.) advised me to freeze plums in a sugar syrup. I duly dissolved half a pound of sugar in half a litre of water (mixed units, anyone?) and poured the cold syrup over the halved and stoned plums. They look OK in their frozen state - I'll let you know how they come out when defrosted.
And yes, we do still have a few left to eat!