September is one of my favourite months of the year. The seasonal pendulum swings seemingly at random, often within the same day, between summer and autumn.
The warm sunny days come as a gift – a little extra treat you didn’t know was in store. Softening the blow of the blustery ones. Which in themselves are easier to bare when wrapping up in an extra layer and fashioning a crumble from fallen fruits is still a novelty.
Which of course is another reason for my September soft spot. The abundance of not just fallen fruits but hedgerow treats, tomatoes ripening by the hour in the greenhouse and the veg patch reaching its annual peak.
Not to sound too uncouth but it is the season of gorging.
A Passion for Plums
Top of my list of gorging treats this week are plums. My plum tree fell prey to rot a few years back but I covet my neighbours Victoria plums in a way that definitely falls foul of the Commandments.
I’m not a bit shy about asking for some. Though I will always repay the generosity with a little cake, jam or whatever I’m making.
Duck with Plum and Ginger
Anyone paying close attention might recognise this recipe as a variation on the Nigel Slater, Duck with Ginger and Citrus recipe published back in March.
I make no apologies for this because this is exactly how recipes evolve. Playing with ingredients and making substitutions is the defining modus operandi of the good cook. Plus, you will thank me for my meddling. It’s delicious.
2 duck legs
2 duck breasts
6 small knobs preserved ginger in syrup (or a couple extra if you’re a ginger fiend like me)
6 tbsp syrup from the ginger jar
3 tbsp warm water
1 tsp sea salt
3 ripe plums, or 4 damsons
caster sugar a little, optional
Make four or five slashes, about the width of a finger apart, through the skin of the duck on both breasts and legs. Put them in a shallow dish with 4 tbsp of the ginger syrup, 3 of warm water and 1 tsp of sea salt flakes. Cover, then set aside in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Put a heavy-based pan over a moderate to high heat, place the duck skin-side down (no oil or extra fat is required) and brown lightly, turn and cook the other side. Tip off any excess fat from the pan (you need to leave a little in the pan). Halve and stone the plums, or damson, then add them to the pan together with the marinade from the duck. Adjust the heat so the liquid simmers gently, season with pepper and cover with a lid.
Leave the duck to simmer for 20 minutes, keeping the heat low and checking to make sure the fruit is not sticking to the pan. If it looks a little dry add a bit of water. Pour in the remaining ginger syrup, then knobs of preserved ginger. Check the pan juices – they should be nicely sweet, sharp and slightly spicy from the ginger. Adjust to taste with salt, and, if you wish, a little sugar.
Sarah Raven’s Best Ever Plum Crumble
I don’t know about you but when I come across a Best Ever… recipe, my response is invariably ‘Oh yeah, you reckon?’ I want to challenge the claim. Food is so subjective, it’s impossible to arrive at a point where this is ever a valid statement.
If your Gran, whom you loved dearly and was undoubtedly the best gran in the world, made you plum crumble as a child then chances are her plum crumble is the Best Ever… Our experience of food is just so bound up with the associations of where, when and by whom it was served.
Plus, we all like different things. That said – this is a damn fine crumble.
2 kg plums
1 lemon, grated zest and juice
125g plain flour
150g roughly chopped, toasted hazelnuts
25g rolled oats
½ tsp ground cinnamon
75g soft brown sugar
50g demerara sugar
125g cold unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 170ºC.
Halve and stone the fruit, and put into a shallow ovenproof dish. Grate over the lemon zest and pour over the juice. Add 50–75g of sugar, only if the fruit is very tart. The amount of sugar depends on how ripe the plums are. If they’re ripe you won’t need any.
To make the crumble topping: put the flour, hazelnuts, oats, cinnamon, sugars and cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks, into a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles large breadcrumbs. Distribute evenly over the prepared fruit.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, until the topping is pale gold.
Spiced Plum Gin
I’m going to be upfront about this. I’ve never actually made plum gin before.
I feel confident it’s a worth a pop. And plan to make lots to gift at Christmas – gin being very much the tipple of choice these days.
Having surveyed the global recipe offering for plum gin, the consensus is this is how you make it. There really isn’t much that could go wrong. The merit of your finished product is more about the quality of the plums. And if it’s a little sour you can always add a little more sugar.
So, who’s with me? Gin for Christmas – sorry, I know it’s just September and I’ve already said it twice.
800g ripe plums (or damsons)
200g caster sugar
70cl good gin
½ a star anise
a few shards of cinnamon stick
Take a knife and stab each plum several times, all over. Sounds pesky but if you hold them in your hand or restrain them in a bowl it’s easier. You need about 10 wounds to each plum to be effective.
Pour the caster sugar (it dissolves faster than any other sugar) and gin into a jar large enough to hold everything. Add the spices and finally the plums.
Leave in a cool place. Shake it every couple of days until the sugar has dissolved. And every week or so. Leave for 3 months.
Allow yourself a taste every now and then to check the spice/sugar balance. You can add or subtract the spices and sugar over time to suit your taste.
Strain and bottle. A little spice and a morsel of fruit in each bottle adds to the look and feel.
If you enjoyed this post and know of anyone with a glut of plums, please ‘like’ and ‘share’ this post using the social buttons. Thank you.