Picking your own fruit is a delight and I can still remember the days out I enjoyed as a child with my Mum at nearby ‘ PYO ‘ fruit farms. It always felt exciting and fun and still does! One of my favourite local farms is Maynard’s in Ticehurst East Sussex, a family run fruit farm where Mum and I often went when in both summer and autumn. I have been returning year after year with our girls, sharing with them the joy of picking your own fruit to eat or make into jams and preserves. Maynard’s is situated in the High Weald an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and enjoys brilliant views over Bewl Water and the surrounding countryside which is a patchwork of woodland and small mixed farms.
Louisa (younger daughter) and I always take an annual visit in late summer as we can’t resist picking cob nuts, plums, apples, pears and raspberries if there is still some left. This year we picked ‘ Marjorie’s Seedlings ‘ my absolute favourite plum variety of all time, large oval blue – black plums, with juicy yellow flesh and a great flavour. And a variety that I have not come across before called ‘ Elena ‘ which caught my eye, the almost dark blue coloured fruits were dripping from the drooping branches and slightly under ripe – perfect for making cordial!
Marjorie’s Seedlings are great for cooking with, but we love to eat them just picked from the tree and not until we get home of course! Well a few get consumed on the way for quality control purposes only!
Such a beautiful colour and brilliant flavour for cordial is the variety ‘ Elena ‘, also fantastic to use in cake baking and puddings.
The cooked fruit is now ready to ladle and pour into the jelly bag.
Jelly bags are used for straining the juice from the cooked fruit when making jellies and cordials. They can be purchased from most kitchen shops and some also come with wooden stands, that can be positioned straight onto a work surface. My jelly bag is one of my favourite pieces of equipment used in the making of jellies and cordials throughout the year.
I hang it from a hook suspended over a table in the kitchen, but you can hang them from an upturned stool.You could also use a large square of muslin, gathered into a bundle and tied up with string.
Whatever you use, it must be nice and clean.I just boil mine up in water after use and let it drip dry. Then scald it again in boiling water before I make another batch of cordial or jelly.
- 1.5 Kg whole plums
- 10 cardamom pods, slightly crushed
- 1 cinnamon stick, about 10cm's long
- 10 cloves
- 1.2 litres water
- 500g granulated sugar
- Put the plums and spices into a preserving pan, add the water and over a medium heat bring to the boil.Turn down the heat and simmer gently until the fruit is soft and the flesh is coming away from the stones, stirring occasionally.
- Allow to cool for an hour.
- Pour the plums, spices and juice into a large jelly bag ( hang the jelly bag over a large bowl ) and allow the juice to drip through overnight.
- Pour the collected jewelled coloured juice into a large pan, add the sugar and over a low heat stir until the sugar has dissolved.
- Take the pan off the heat and allow the cordial to cool, you can add 2 teaspoons of citric acid at this stage if you want the cordial to store for a longer period of time.
- Pour into sterilised bottles using a funnel and keep in the fridge, it should store well in the fridge for a couple of months without citric acid and double that time if added.
- The cordial can be frozen in plastic containers if you want to keep it for a later date.
Please don’t be put off making this delicious cordial by the cooking time ( it does look ridiculously long ), it is only that long because of the overnight dripping process needed for all the delicious plum juice to strain into the bowl. The the longer it drips the better the cordial will taste.
FYI : The amount of spices were just right for me in this cordial, I could taste all the different spicy and warming flavours of the cardamom, cinnamon and cloves and they didn’t overwhelm the wonderful essence of plum. If cordials are over spiced they start to taste like medicine.
Oh and definitely have a go at mixing it with a really good cider!