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Savoury plum sauce, like a Hoi sin and a note on low risk canning

If you have a plum tree near you this is a good example of what to do with the glut, its exciting followed by a huge mess, the plums are only really ready to eat for 2 weeks which is not nearly long enough to eat them all. They start dropping their fruit and rotting en mass before you can decide they are done. as soon as the birds notice they are ready they will knock them off their branches and take a single bite from each leaving the rest to the insects on the ground.

While jams are an easy way to preserve the huge haul of fruit, I find it hard to get through the jars and jars which accumulate over the year, eating that much sugar really slows me down, I am amazed so many people around the world start each day with so much sugar, seems like starting off the day with dessert.

I prefer where I can to preserve ingredients using savoury methods whenever I can. Lacto/salt fermenting is an easy way to start, the down fall being the fruit will often need to be reprepared later down the line, which is fine. This recipe starts a month ahead of making the sauce, or can be a year ahead too if you have fermented plums left from the previous season.

The plum tree in my yard is a deep purple variety, somewhere between a Victoria and sugar plum, tart and sweet, if you have something with less acidity like a green gauge or mirabelle you may want to add extra vinegar to taste.

I start the plum season by trying to use them when slightly immature. The point when they are firm but starting to soften, they have started to develop the plum flavour, the skin has tannins the fruit is very tart. This stage is great for pickles, most of the work is done acid wise, so you can play with the vinegar solution to make it as sweet as you like, the vinegar can be flavoured with spices, honey, chilli, teas. The fruit is firm enough to stay that way for the year if needs be.

The next process is salt pickling, I let the fruit get a bit more soft (not ripe) then mix with 3.5% salt and top up with brine. some of these are used in the Hoi sin style plum sauce.

this stays at room temperature for 3 weeks which is usually around the time until the plums are ripe and ready to eat. This is the time to make the Hoi sin.

The final stages of the plum tree's glut is drying, wines, liqueur and vinegar. Plum wine is great for cooking, braising meat, finishing sauces. Excess wine can be left open to turn to vinegar, a great base for dressings, to brighten a dish or even in a cocktail.

Dried plums serve well in desserts, fruit loaf, Christmas pudding or less seasonal pastries like Eccles cake.

Liqueur are good in cocktails, as digestives or in cooking like my hot liqueur sponge sponge recipe.

This Hoi sin sauce is fantastic as a condiment to roast pork and duck, I'm sure you will all have eaten bbq duck pancakes from Chinese restaurants, I use it in my marinade for char sui pork (Chinese bbq red pork), its great mixed into a meat sauce for game or pork.

Mixed with vinegar and oyster sauce to make a bright red sweet and sour stir fry. once you have it on hand you will see how versatile it can be.

As your pantry grows you can prepare your own ingredients to make this, I made the vinegar, rice wine, and miso and have adapted these ingredients to taste.

If buying ingredients from the store you may want to adjust this recipe to your taste. Just keep in mind the importance of having enough salt, acid and sugar to control the water content or the sauce may spoil faster unless canned

Savoury plum sauce

3kg plums (with stones in)

1kg salt pickled plums (with stones in)

600g sugar

600g vinegar

300g rice wine

500g miso

8g white peppercorns

3 star anise

10g celery seeds

15g coriander seeds

6 cloves

equipment required

a large pot, blender, a food mill is a great help but needed

  1. toast spices in a pan over a low heat until they have become fragrant.

  2. place all the ingredients in a large pot and simmer for 1 hour until soft.

  3. place the stewed fruit mix in a food mill if you have one and pass the pulp from the stones of the plums, if not leave the fruit mix to cool and remove the stones by hand.

  4. put the mix on a blender and puree until smooth.

  5. put the mixture back into the large pot and cook slowly until it has reduced to a thick paste, (by about half the original volume).

A note on preserving.

while this will keep for a long time in the fridge due to its high salt/acid and lack of moisture it won't likely keep the time in the fridge to use the whole batch. maybe 3 months.

I chose to put it into jam jars and can them. this means they can be stored at room temp freeing up fridge space, like most condiments this extended life give the sauce time to mellow and develop, it is remarkable how much condiments change and often get better over weeks and sometimes years.

To do this you will need sanitised jars with tight airtight lids.

To sanitise jars for preserving you can make sure they are washed thoroughly then placed in boiling water for 10 seconds or placed in a 150 degree oven for 10 minutes.

alternatively you can run them through a dishwasher which is less fuss.

This sauce is acidic enough to stop the risk of botulism which is the enemy of canning, so the main threat to your plum sauce will be yeast. yeast dies off around 70C.

The idea is to heat the sauce inside the jar to above 70C, killing off anything which could cause the food to spoil.

Shorten the time needed to raise the inside temp of the jar by adding the sauce into the jar hot. Screw on or seal the lid quickly, and place in a pot just covered by water. Simmer for 20 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the jars cool in the pot.

If you are using jars with the popped nipple cap like most jars you will get from the supermarket it will suck in once cooled showing it has been heated and is air tight.

Once you open the jar keep it in the fridge as though it was freshly made, yeast from the air will get in as soon as you pop the lid. keep an eye on the inside of the lid of the jar for any signs of spoilage.

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