Friday 17 October 2014

Little Plum

Little plums in increasing order of size:
  • sloe (prunelle)
  • damson (prune de damas)
  • quetsche (damson)....
Prunelles en profusion
Sloes are the fruit of the blackthorn (épine noire, prunus communis), a British and European native shrub to be found in hedgerows all over Europe. Its sour, astringent fruit are black, with a bluish bloom that disappears as the fruit ripens. Sloes are widely used to flavour alcoholic drinks and to make jelly. In France, another alcoholic drink (also called épine noire) is made with the young shoots.

We have blackthorn along the bank of the Aigronne. Unusual among them is one plant (and its offspring) which flowers three weeks earlier than all the others, and has fruit the size of a marble. The leaves are somewhat more rounded than normal. This fruit is relatively sweet and we believe it is either a subspecies or a hybrid of some kind. The bush was absolutely loaded with fruit this year but we have more than enough sloe gin, not to mention sloe rum. So I decided to make jam from them.

Good enough to eat?
The recipe comes from Recettes de Confiture, by Vincent Pommeraie. It was only after the jam was made that I found out that a prunelle is also a type of small plum, a bit bigger than a quetsche. However the context does indicate that he means sloes and not plums. Being by M. Pommeraie, the original recipe includes a vanilla pod, but I left this out as I wanted to taste plum, not vanilla.

This jam could also be made with frozen sloes.

Sloe jam

1.8 kg sloes
750g sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Wash the fruit and remove stalks spiders etc. Place the sloes in a stainless steel saucepan, add water to just cover and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer until the fruit is reduced to a pulp (en marmelade}. Strain out the stones (see below). Tip the resulting pulp into a preserving pan with the lemon juice, and bring back to the boil. Stir in the sugar. Heat gently, stirring till the sugar is dissolved, then turn up the heat and boil till the setting point is reached,. Pommeraie has a final, unusual step here. I left this out because our sloes aren't astringent. To remove any remaining acidity, he suggests you spread the mixture on a baking dish or tray and heat in a very slow oven at 150° - 200° F / 70°-90° C (therme 2-3) for 12 hours. Pot and cover in the usual way.

The sloe jam worked very well, with a sharp but intense plum flavour. This made it worth the tedium of removing the stones. The traditional mouli food mill proved to be the best tool (forget rubbing them through a sieve). The main problem was that the tiny stones jammed under the mouli blade and burst with a loud bang, shooting bits across the kitchen. The only thing worse than fruit stones in jam is broken bits of fruit stone. I received a lot of help with this part! The mixture I obtained was actually quite sweet, although sharp, and a little goes a long way. I used a jam thermometer backed by the old plate-in-icebox to test for set. Having used too much water to get the mixture go through the mouli it took about an hour and a half to reach a set. The texture is more like a fruit spread than a jam.

1 comment:

Kev Alviti said...

If it is a new sub species you could graft cuttings to propergate it.