I don't recommend leaning over a river bank to collect fruit, but that was my first experience of gathering a bagful of wild Mirabelle plums on a misty morning walking by the Thames at Cookham.
I now look out for these little yellow jewels every year, marking the beginning of the end of summer and time to make something that will be delicious on crumpets when Autumn rolls in.
For me, the best part of making something to eat from 'wild food' is being outdoors; the mindful process of collecting; developing a knowledge of what will be out month by month in your local area and keeping a mental note of all your favourite 'stashes'!
If you are a beginner to making jam, plums are definitely the easiest way to start, making the Mirabelles ideal. I can't remember now where the recipe originally came from, but I have used it reliably for quire a few batches of my own wild yellow plum jam.
- Collect 1kg plums
- 1 kg white sugar
- 1 lemon
Sterilise some jars in preparation (I put them in the dishwasher, some people put them in the oven)
Remove the stones from the plums (slice around the outside of the plum and twist it open and stone with a tea spoon)
Put the plums in a large pot and add the sugar and lemon juice (proper jam makers use preserving pans, I just use my Le Creuset casserole pot)
Heat slowly to dissolve the sugar
Once the sugar is dissolved, bring the mixture to the boil (a rolling boil) for around 20 minutes. It can take longer (I've boiled mine for 30-40 minutes sometimes)
To test if your jam is set, put some of it on a chilled plate from the fridge and run your finger through it to see if it wrinkles. If its does, its set. If not, boil for a bit longer. Be aware that it does become more 'jam like' once it is left to cool in jars - so don't be tempted to over boil.
pic: features Hedgerow Tea Towel