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Greengage jelly, full of plummy flavour, scented with rosemary and with a hint of heat is a perfect and unusual condiment.
Greengage jelly is not a very common condiment because greengages are thought to be less worthy fruit. Second cousins to plums, poor relations of damsons, they are in addition commonly confused with quinces, an even less appreciated fruit.
Greengage is even named unappealingly: there are no redgages as far as I know, nor are plums called purpleplums. It looks sour, unripe and not very noteworthy.
And yet – of course there was going to be ‘and yet’, there always is - it is a surprisingly sweet and mellow fruit, easily turned into jam or jelly, which I went for. Looking for a condiment rather than jam of which I already had a cupboardful, I thought I’d make something closer to redcurrant jelly than to strawberry conserve. And I just love making jelly.
It does help if you cough up a few quid for the jelly making kit which is basically scaffolding for a muslin bag to hang over a bowl. But you could try and build your own contraption. Tying the ends of a muslin cloth to a wire rack placed over a tall container will do the trick. Jelly is made by dripping juice slowly and leisurely, though it beats me why you can’t just squeeze the juice out straight away, by passing the fruit through a sieve or milling it in a food mill. The key benefit gained through dripping is clarity; if you press the juice it will be cloudy, with bits or puree suspended in the liquid. What’s wrong with it? Nothing, but aesthetics in food will not be argued with.
I dripped my juice but then the scrimp in me made me squeeze the bag for the last drops, so my jelly turned out slightly murky. Not that it affected the taste which is gorgeous: plummy, both in the literal as well as metaphorical sense, with a hint of heat from the chillies and the divine rosemary fragrance. Rosemary is so good with fruit I’m amazed sprigs aren’t commonly stuck into jars of jam.
The jelly is perfect for roast lamb, that’s obvious, but it’s also good with other meats, fish, with cheese or as a je-ne-sais-quoi added to sauces and gravies. It will go wherever redcurrant jelly would go. Or sweet chilli sauce. Or chutney. Or ketchup – okay, maybe not but it is still a fantastic versatile condiment totally worth making.
greengage jellyServings: makes 1 small jarTime: 30 minutes plus overnight straining
- 400g greengages
- 200g caster sugar
- ½ red chilli, deseeded and sliced thinly
- 3 sprigs of rosemary
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
1. Place the greengages whole in a saucepan with half a cup of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 20-25 minutes, until completely soft.
2. If you have a jelly bag, use it according to the instructions. Otherwise place a colander over a tall pot (you can use the same pot you cooked the fruit in, rinsed, while the greengages have been decanted to a bowl). Make sure there is enough clearance between the colander and the bottom of the pan, so the juice can drip freely. Additional scaffolding using a cake tin ring or something similar might be useful. Line the colander with a double layer of muslin. Pour the fruit into the bag or muslin cloth and leave to drip overnight.
3. The next day squeeze the bag with fruit pulp to maximise the yield and pour the juice back to a saucepan. Add the sugar, sliced chilli and the rosemary sprigs, and bring to a gentle simmer. Let it cook for about 30-40 minutes until the temperature reaches 105C – or a blob dropped onto an ice cold plate sets to jam/jelly consistency.
4. While the jelly cooks, wash a jam sized jar, kilner or lidded, in hot water. Place it in an oven heated up to 120C and immediately switched off.
5. When the jelly is ready leave it to slightly cool down, about 5 minutes. Fish out the rosemary sprigs, ignore an odd needle but leave the chillies in. Carefully fill the jar, close it tightly and leave for at least a few days to mature before opening.